It was truly a game for the ages -- okay, fledgling WBC-style ages -- as Team USA came from behind in the 9th inning to survive death at the hands of tournament Goliath Puerto Rico in World Baseball Classic elimination play last night.
What made it so sweet for the Americans: Puerto Rico actually mercy-ruled USA in a humiliating loss just three days earlier. To make matters even more difficult, the US entered the game with a much-depleted roster after sending Dustin Pedroia, Chipper Jones, Ryan Braun, and Matt Lindstrom home with injuries. Manager Davey Johnson had even discussed the possibility of forfeiture if the trend continued.
The remaining able-bodied players, however, had something to say about that.
After stranding seven on base in the previous innings, USA trailed 5-3 heading into the 9th when Shane Victorino and Brian Roberts (who just arrived this week, replacing Pedroia) each singled off Victorino's Phillies teammate JC Romero. Derek Jeter proceeded to fly out, but Victorino tagged and moved to third. Roberts niftily stole second, and Jimmy Roberts was walked. Fernando Cabrera walked Kevin Youkilis on five pitches, which forced Victorino to home. Runners were at first and second, the crowd was screaming...and David Wright dropped a base hit just inside the right-field line, sending in the winning runs and his team off the bench in a frenzy.
"Getting a crack at a team that embarrassed us a few days earlier, to have the resiliency to bounce back in the ninth and steal one from them was pretty big,” Wright said.
What a fantastic victory for a US team badly in need of a confidence boost. The only shame is that after such a poor showing in their first match-up against Puerto Rico, only a little over 13,000 fans were on hand at Dolphin Stadium to witness the Americans secure their first appearance ever in WBC semi-finals.
Team USA will face off against Venezuela tonight at 7 p.m. to determine the higher seed heading into the final four at Dodger Stadium.
Janie Campbell is a Florida native who believes in the pro-set and ballpark hot dogs. Her work has appeared in irreverent sports sites around the Internet.