The Dominican Republic’s offense only came to life for one inning, but their four-run fifth was enough to propel them to the World Baseball Classic’s championship game with a 4-1 win over the Netherlands at AT&T Park on Monday.
The victory put the Dominicans one win away from going undefeated during the 2013 tournament, with Puerto Rico waiting and hoping to spoil that streak tonight.
Starter Edinson Volquez got off to a shaky start for the Dominicans, walking the first two batters he faced and allowing a run on a groundout by right fielder Wladimir Balentien. He settled in after that, however, finishing five innings while allowing two hits and striking out five. Kelvin Herrera, Pedro Strop and Fernando Rodney kept the Dutch offense off the scoreboard the rest of the way.
Rodney — who celebrated his 36th birthday Monday — has now saved six of the Dominicans’ seven wins.
It is a streak that may or may not be influenced by a lucky banana Rodney has carried with him during the tournament, which he displayed for the crowd during introductions. At the very least, manager Tony Pena said it has contributed to the relaxed atmosphere in the clubhouse.
“Baseball is about having fun,” Pena said. “And those guys try to relax themselves doing the little things. All the little things to motivate themselves. The thing is you need to find a way how you’re going to lose the stress. How you’re going to keep the whole group of players laughing and feeling loose.”
The fifth-inning rally started with back-to-back one-out doubles by Carlos Santana and Moises Sierra. Shortstop Jose Reyes drove in the second run with an RBI single, and later scored on a wild pitch by reliever Tom Stuifbergen. Edwin Encarnacion capped off the scoring with an RBI single.
All four runs were credited to starter Diegomar Markwell, who took his first loss of the tournament after winning his first two starts.
Robinson Cano, who was named MVP of each of the previous rounds, didn’t get much of a chance to swing the bat, going 1-for-2 before being walked intentionally twice.
This marked the end of the Cinderella story of the Netherlands squad, a team with few recognizable names managed by Giants hitting coach Hensley Meulens.
For the first time in its brief history, the World Baseball Classic will see two Caribbean teams face off for the championship when Puerto Rico meets the Dominican Republic tonight at AT&T Park.
The Dominicans put their perfect 7-0 tournament record on the line against a Puerto Rico team that has won three straight elimination games in the past week.
Both teams have been carried by their pitching so far, as both boast a team ERA under 3.00 for the tournament.
The Dominican Republic came out ahead in their only previous matchup in this tournament, a 2-0 win that earned them the top spot in Pool 2 in the second round.
Whatever happens, the Giants roster will boast a member of the championship team, as Santiago Casilla has come out of the bullpen for the Dominicans, and Giants center fielder Angel Pagan will bat leadoff for Puerto Rico.