It may be America's pastime, but Team USA will have to wait another four years for a shot at the World Baseball Classic title after being eliminated Friday night by Puerto Rico in a 4-3 ballgame at Marlins Park.
Nelson Figueroa shut down the Americans with six shutout innings, giving up only two knocks and walking one while Team USA was out in front of most everything he threw.
"If this was to be the last game in my career, that would have been something," Figueroa said on worldbaseballclassic.com. "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."
With David Wright out of action with an intercostal muscle strain, Team USA missed the newly dubbed Captain America in a big way by not scratching their way onto the scoreboard until the seventh inning. Already down 3-0, Joe Mauer tripled with one out and Giancarlo Stanton drove him in with a single.
Team USA also put a rally together in the eighth when Jimmy Rollins and Brandon Phillips hit one-out singles, followed by Ryan Braun hitting an RBI-double. Mauer then walked to load the bases with one out, but Stanton popped out to eliminate a sacrifice fly opportunity. Ben Zobrist drew a walk to put the score at 4-3 before Eric Hosmer grounded out to end the frame.
Wright drove in 10 RBIs and hit only American homer of the WBC, while everyone else on the team combined for 12 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."
Ryan Vogelsong took the loss despite only giving up one run while actually in the game via an RBI-single by Mike Aviles. He was charged with two runs over his 5 2/3 innings, with another run coming amidst a three-run sixth given up by the usually reliably Vinne Pestano.
So now for the US, their players go back to Spring Training, and Puerto Rico goes to San Francisco to play the Domincan Republic for seeding purposes before the semifinals.
"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."
In the third installment of the WBC, this is the second time the US has failed to make it out of the second round, the first time being with Japan eliminated them in 2006.
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