Round 2, Pool 2, Game 6 | Sat, Mar 16

DOM 2, PUR 0

MIAMI — By virtue of the Domini­can Repub­lic’s 2–0 vic­to­ry over Puer­to Rico on Sat­ur­day at Mar­lins Park, the pair­ings for the semi­fi­nals of the World Base­ball Clas­sic for the next two days are set.

Puer­to Rico will play Japan at AT&T Park on Sun­day and unbeat­en D.R. (6−0) will face the King­dom of the Nether­lands on Mon­day. Both games are at 9 p.m. ET.

The win­ners will meet to decide this year’s cham­pi­on on Tues­day at 8 p.m. ET. All of the games will be broad­cast in the U.S. on MLB Net­work and ESPN Deportes.

For the D.R. on Sat­ur­day, Indi­ans catch­er Car­los San­tana home­red to lead off the fifth and Pirates left-han­der Wandy Rodriguez pitched six innings of two-hit ball to earn the win. Yan­kees sec­ond base­man Robin­son Cano was vot­ed as the Most Valu­able Play­er of Pool 2. He bat­ted .417 (5‑for-12) in the three games and home­red in a vic­to­ry over Italy.

“Let me tell you, it’s an indi­vid­ual thing,” said Cano, who over­all in the Clas­sic is hit­ting .519 (14-for-27) with four dou­bles, two homers, six RBIs, five runs scored and 24 total bases. “But Puer­to Rico did­n’t care that we had the Most Valu­able Play­er. What I want­ed was to go to the sec­ond round. Once we were in the sec­ond round, we want­ed to go to the third round. You have to view it game by game. That was not only impor­tant to me, but impor­tant to all of our play­ers.”

Puer­to Rico had one chance to score in the third inning, but Irv­ing Falu was thrown out at the plate on a field­er’s choice grounder to Domini­can short­stop Erick Aybar.

Aybar also made a heads-up play in the eighth on a field­er’s choice grounder, help­ing quell a Puer­to Rico ral­ly by get­ting Mar­tin Mal­don­a­do at third for the inning’s sec­ond out. Jesus Feli­ciano then walked to put men on first and sec­ond before Pedro Valdes ground­ed out to Cano to end the threat.

Aybar was in the mid­dle of the action in bot­tom of the inning, sin­gling with one out, advanc­ing to third on Cano’s sin­gle and lat­er scor­ing on a two-out sin­gle by Fran­cis­co Pena.

On Thurs­day night, Aybar also had the pinch-hit sin­gle in the ninth inning that helped the D.R. defeat the U.S.

Fer­nan­do Rod­ney closed out the win in the ninth for his fifth save of the Clas­sic.

“I’ve been prepar­ing for this since last year,” said Rod­ney, the clos­er for the Rays who had 48 saves this past sea­son, by far the most of his career. “My plan was to come here and sup­port my coun­try, rep­re­sent it with my soul and my heart.”

With the two Latin teams in the mix, the bleat­ing of the air horns, con­gas and fes­ti­val atmos­phere of the games here in Mia­mi will move on to the City by the Bay, which is host­ing the Clas­sic cham­pi­onship round for the first time.

The Clas­sic was a big bash this week in south Flori­da and has been so around the world for the past two weeks. The six games in the brack­et here were a huge suc­cess, attend­ed by 153,115 fans, 25,846 on Sat­ur­day. Over­all, includ­ing last year’s new qual­i­fy­ing round, the Clas­sic has drawn 788,299 fans. Tick­ets for the games in San Fran­cis­co can still be pur­chased via worldbaseballclassic.com.

Japan won the first two Clas­sics, defeat­ing Cuba at Pet­co Park in 2006, 10–6, and Korea at Dodger Sta­di­um, 5–3, four years ago in an epic bat­tle as the Japan­ese scored twice in the 10th on Ichi­ro Suzuk­i’s two-run sin­gle when Korea pitched to him with first base open.

Cer­tain­ly, there are more sto­ries to be woven in the next three days.

Here this week, the Domini­cans and Puer­to Ricans oust­ed Team USA and upstart Italy in games that all came down to the wire. The D.R. came from behind on Tues­day to defeat Italy, 5–4, wip­ing out a 4–0 deficit. On Thurs­day in front of a brack­et-high 34,366, the D.R. snapped a 1–1 tie with two runs in the ninth off U.S. clos­er Craig Kim­brel and won, 3–1.

The D.R. is the only team to ever head into the semi­fi­nals unde­feat­ed. The Dutch team that’s up next beat the Domini­cans twice in 2009, knock­ing them out in the first round. Head­ing in, that’s the only shad­ow hang­ing over their col­lec­tive heads.

“We’ve already talked about the Nether­lands, we don’t want to talk about that,” Cano said. “We’re going to face anoth­er tough team. If you go all the way through this thing, it’s because you had a great team and you’ve been doing your job. We’re not going to take any­thing for grant­ed. We’re just going to go out there like we do every day and try to win anoth­er game.”

For the Puer­to Ricans, after los­ing to the U.S. on Tues­day, they came from behind with three runs in the eighth inning to defeat Italy, 4–3, on Wednes­day night in its first do-or-die game of Pool 2. And then on Fri­day night, after build­ing a 4–0 lead, P.R. held on to oust the Amer­i­cans, 4–3.

Next up on Sun­day for Puer­to Rico is the Japan­ese.

“We’ve been watch­ing them for years, and they’re the two-time cham­pi­ons of the [Clas­sic] for a rea­son,” P.R. man­ag­er Edwin Rodriguez said. “They know how to play the game. They put a lot of empha­sis on the lit­tle things, on mas­ter­ing the obvi­ous, and they don’t make many mis­takes, offen­sive­ly or defen­sive­ly. So we have to go out there and almost play a per­fect game and try to attack the hit­ters and be aggres­sive at the plate, take the next base. We have to turn the page and try to play the per­fect game against them.”

Bar­ry M. Bloom is a nation­al reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boom­skie on Base­ball. Fol­low@boomskie on Twit­ter. This sto­ry was not sub­ject to the approval of Major League Base­ball or its clubs.