Round 2, Pool 2, Game 5 | Fri, Mar 15

PUR 4, USA 3

MIAMI — Puer­to Rico is going to San Francisco.

Behind the two-hit pitch­ing of jour­ney­man right-han­der Nel­son Figueroa, Puer­to Rico defeat­ed Team USA, 4–3, on Fri­day night at Mar­lins Park, knock­ing the Amer­i­cans — the only team replete with Major Lea­guers — out of the World Base­ball Classic.

The cham­pi­onship round in San Fran­cis­co is now com­plete. Puer­to Rico will play the Domini­can Repub­lic on Sat­ur­day at 1 p.m. ET at Mar­lins Park to deter­mine matchups for the semi­fi­nals at AT&T Park. The win­ner will play the King­dom of the Nether­lands on Mon­day, and the los­er faces Japan on Sunday.

The final game is slat­ed for Tues­day night at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT. The semi­fi­nals are at 9 p.m. and will be broad­cast in the U.S. live on MLB Net­work and ESPN Deportes.

“If this was to be the last game in my career, that would have been some­thing,” said Figueroa. “But I keep try­ing for the World Series ring. And thank God, it was­n’t only for Nel­son Figueroa, but rather for the Puer­to Rican team. And we played very hard and we won.”

P.R. had a 4–0 lead and over­came fever­ish U.S. ral­lies in the sev­enth and eighth to advance to the semis for the first time in the third edi­tion of the tour­na­ment. The Japan­ese won the first two.

The U.S. now has failed to make it out of the sec­ond round twice, the first time in 2006. The Amer­i­cans lost in the semi­fi­nals to Japan at Dodger Sta­di­um four years ago.

On Fri­day night, the U.S. had the bases loaded in the eighth inning with two out and a chance to pull out the game with a base hit. But Eric Hos­mer, a late add for injured Mark Teix­eira, ground­ed to sec­ond. Team USA man­ag­er Joe Torre said after­ward that inten­si­ty of play from all sides illus­trates just how hard it is to sur­vive in this kind of tournament.

“Well, I’ve been on both sides of the short series, and that’s what it is. It does­n’t mean you don’t have a good team,” said Torre, who won the World Series four times with the Yan­kees, but fell short the eight oth­er times when his club made the play­offs dur­ing his 12-year tenure in New York. “The only thing I can say is this has been one of the most mem­o­rable expe­ri­ences of my career.

“I’m a lit­tle emo­tion­al, but this has been much more than I expect­ed. I knew it was going to be fun, but the com­mit­ment from every one of these guys made this a great expe­ri­ence for me.”

Dav­ey John­son was the man­ag­er in 2009 when the U.S. defeat­ed Puer­to Rico, 6–5, to move out of the sec­ond round on a walk-off sin­gle by David Wright. The Mets’ third base­man was scratched from the start­ing line­up on Thurs­day just pri­or to the U.S. los­ing, 3–1, to the Domini­cans with what has been diag­nosed as an inter­costal strain in his right rib cage.

The U.S. did­n’t hit much after Wright went out with the injury. In the last two games, the Amer­i­cans had only eight hits, all of them sin­gles, before Joe Mauer tripled with one out in the sev­enth inning against Puer­to Rico and scored on Gian­car­lo Stan­ton’s sin­gle for his only RBI of the tour­na­ment. Ryan Braun had his first RBI hit, a dou­ble, dur­ing the two-run, eighth-inning rally.

Wright led the Clas­sic with 10 RBIs and hit the only homer for the Amer­i­cans in their six games — a grand slam this past Sat­ur­day night in a 6–2 win over Italy. The oth­er 12 U.S. posi­tion play­ers totaled 17 RBIs.

“Clear­ly I think it was a com­bi­na­tion of a lot of things, but we did­n’t swing the bats very well col­lec­tive­ly,” Braun said. “We had plen­ty of oppor­tu­ni­ties. There are no excus­es. There’s not nec­es­sar­i­ly any rhyme or rea­son for it. I think when you’re not swing­ing the bats well col­lec­tive­ly, every­body tries a lit­tle bit hard­er to pick each oth­er up. It’s just human nature. I think it’s a part of what we do and what we expe­ri­ence as base­ball players.”

The U.S. was 3–3 in the tour­na­ment and 1–2 in the sec­ond round, defeat­ing Puer­to Rico on Tues­day night, 7–1, for its only win in Pool 2. The Amer­i­cans’ oth­er wins in the open­ing round came against Italy and Cana­da, the lat­ter in an elim­i­na­tion game this past Sun­day at Chase Field. The U.S. lost to all three Latin teams it faced: Mex­i­co, the Domini­cans and Puer­to Rico.

P.R. is 4–2 in the tour­na­ment going into Sat­ur­day’s seed­ing game against 5–0 D.R. Its big win came on Wednes­day night in a do-or-die game against Italy. Puer­to Rico came back from a 3–0 deficit and scored three times in the bot­tom of the eighth to win, 4–3.

Puer­to Rico opened up a big lead in Fri­day night’s sixth inning, scor­ing three times after Torre took starter Ryan Vogel­song out at 73 pitch­es, sev­en short of the 80-pitch sec­ond round lim­it. By Clas­sic rules, any starter is allowed to fin­ish a bat­ter when he reach­es the 80-pitch threshold.

There were two out at the time and a run­ner on first when Torre went to the bullpen for reliev­er Vin­nie Pestano.

“I had told you the last cou­ple of days that even though there’s a pitch lim­it, it did­n’t mean we were going to get there,” Torre said, explain­ing why he decid­ed not to let Vogel­song pitch to one more bat­ter. “When you get pitch­ers going from 70 to 80 or 65 to 80, in that regard, it’s still Spring Train­ing and they’re still get­ting there, and we weren’t going to push anybody.”

Pes­tano nev­er record­ed an out. Mike Aviles sin­gled and Alex Rios walked to load the bases. Pes­tano fol­lowed that by walk­ing Car­los Rivera to force in a run. Andy Gon­za­lez dou­bled to left to knock in two more runs, giv­ing P.R. a 4–0 lead.

At that point, Torre went to Jere­my Affeldt, who induced Irv­ing Falu to ground out, end­ing the inning.

“He had good stuff; he was just try­ing to over­throw,” Torre said about Pes­tano. “[Pitch­ing coach] Greg [Mad­dux] went out and talked to him. He got a lit­tle smoother. I know he walked in a run, but the thing that hurt us was the [dou­ble] on the 0–2 slider.”

For his part, Figueroa held the U.S. offense silent. He earned the win, walk­ing only one and strik­ing out two. He kept the hit­ters off bal­ance with an array of break­ing pitch­es, reach­ing as high as 87 mph only once, leav­ing after six innings, hav­ing thrown 82 pitches.

“I think the fact of the mat­ter is that we were supreme under­dogs against that USA line­up,” Figueroa said. “Myself, I sat up watch­ing MLB Net­work and hear­ing all the things that I could­n’t do and could do, so it was moti­va­tion to show them what kind of a pitch­er I am.”

That he did, and now for Puer­to Rico it’s on to San Fran­cis­co, while the U.S. play­ers are going back to their indi­vid­ual teams.

“We played to win, but also to rep­re­sent and to be aware of what a good per­for­mance would mean here,” Puer­to Rico man­ag­er Edwin Rodriguez said. “Of course hav­ing the Domini­can Repub­lic and Puer­to Rico going to San Fran­cis­co fills me with pride, not only as a Puer­to Rican, but also as a Latin American.”

Bar­ry M. Bloom is a nation­al reporter for 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.