SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A salsa party was booked at the AT&T Park after the Dominican Republic beat the Netherlands 4-1 on Monday to set up an all-Caribbean clash against Puerto Rico in the final of the World Baseball Classic.
“It could be Puerto Rico, it could be the Dominicans but the Classic championship will belong to the Caribbean,” said Dominican Republic manager Tony Pena.
The Dominicans (7-0) will play for the WBC title on Tuesday against a Puerto Rico (5-3) team they have beaten twice earlier in the 16-team tournament in a pair of two-run victories.
Seeking to become the first team to go through a WBC unbeaten, the Dominican Republic erupted for four runs in the fifth inning to take charge after trailing 1-0 on a first-inning run by the Dutch.
The scoring outburst turned up the volume of drum beating and horn blowing from their legion of exuberant fans.
The victory was set up by the brilliant combined pitching of starter Edinson Volquez and three relievers, who teamed up for a four-hitter that avenged a pair of losses to the Dutch in the 2009 tournament that sent the Dominicans packing.
After managing just two hits against Netherlands starter Diegomar Markwell through four innings, the Dominicans found their stroke and registered five hits in their go-ahead rally with Moises Sierra doubling in the tying run and Jose Reyes putting them ahead with a run-scoring single.
Netherlands manager Hensley Meulens said he knew it would be difficult for his team to battle back against the talented procession of Dominican relievers.
”It’s a great bullpen,“ Meulens said after hard-throwers Kelvin Herrera, Pedro Strop and Fernando Rodney shut the Dutch down from the sixth inning on. ”Those guys calmed down our bats.
“But I‘m proud of our guys.”
The Netherlands claimed the early lead without benefit of a hit.
Volquez had trouble throwing strikes at the start of the game, issuing walks to the first two batters of the game and lead-off man Andrelton Simmons came around to score after the next two batters grounded out.
Left-hander Markwell, keeping the Dominicans off-balance, sailed through the first four innings before finding trouble.
Carlos Santana got the winners started with a one-out double down the third-base line, and Sierra followed with a line-drive double into the left-field corner to tie it 1-1.
After a groundout moved Sierra to third, Reyes blooped a single to center to give the Dominicans a 2-1 lead.
They were not done, however, as veteran Miguel Tejada lined another single to center with Reyes in motion to put runners on first and third.
Reliever Tom Stuifbergen came on in relief and bounced a wild pitch past the catcher that allowed Reyes to score and Tejada to move up to second. After an intentional walk to Robinson Cano, Edwin Encarnacion delivered another run-scoring single to center to make it 4-1.
As some of the crowd of more than 27,000 at the stadium on San Francisco Bay began to leave toward the end of the game, seagulls filled the sky looking for the remains of ballpark snacks. For the Dominicans, feasting began in earnest after closer Rodney struck out Jonathan Schoop for the last out.
Volquez went five innings, yielding only two hits and striking out five for the win.
“When you’re representing your country, and you’re making your country proud of you, that’s amazing,” he said. “That’s awesome. It’s not something that you can do every day.”
Reporting by Larry Fine, Editing by Amlan Chakraborty