Puerto Rico takes top seed in Pool D
Dominating pitching, offense dispatches underdog Netherlands
By Will Gonzalez / MLB.com
Puerto Rico finished the first round without a defeat and retained its perfect record of 6-0 in first-round play in young World Baseball Classic history. In the 2006 Classic, Puerto Rico enjoyed a 3-0 record in the first round.
Dominant pitching and timely hitting led Puerto Rico to victory.
Puerto Rico starter Jonathan Sanchez pitched four scoreless innings, allowing two hits and a walk while striking out four batters. Relievers Orlando Roman, Javier Lopez, Nelson Figueroa, Ivan Maldonado, Pedro Feliciano and Saul Rivera worked in tandem to preserve the shutout.
"I used a lot fastballs and sliders -- the changeup was not working that well," said Sanchez after the game.
"We have to give a lot of credit to our pitching in this round," said Puerto Rico first baseman Carlos Delgado. "Before the series, we kept hearing about Puerto Rico's batting, but it was the pitching that carried us. In the three games, it allowed only one run."
Puerto Rico's hitters did not wait to support their pitchers. They scored the first run of the game in the bottom of the first inning after Dutch starter Pim Walsma walked leadoff hitter Jesus Feliciano and threw a wild pitch to allow Feliciano to reach third base. Carlos Beltran hit into a fielder's choice to bring Feliciano home and force out Ramon Vazquez at second base. Vazquez had reached base on a walk.
In the fifth, Delgado led off with a single. Alex Rios followed with a triple in the gap in left-center field to push in Delgado, giving Puerto Rico a 2-0 lead. Ivan Rodriguez increased it by hitting a single to bring Rios home.
Puerto Rico scored another run when Beltran hit a single in the sixth after Dutch reliever Berry Van Driel registered an out. Hiram Bocachica pinch-ran for Beltran, but ended up strolling to third base after Van Driel walked the next two batters, Delgado and Rios. With the bases loaded, Geovany Soto singled to bring Bocachica home and put the score at 4-0.
Bocachica scored again in the eighth inning after he led off the bottom of the inning with a single and came home on a single by pinch-hitter Alex Cora. All the while, The Netherlands remained quiet on offense.
The media covering Pool D elected Ivan Rodriguez the Most Valuable Player of the San Juan round of the Classic. Rodriguez finished the first round hitting .545 with two home runs, five RBIs and 13 total bases.
Said Rodriguez: "I am really happy winning the MVP here in Puerto Rico, as it may be the last time that I am going to participate in the Classic as a player."
With the win, Puerto Rico is scheduled to play on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET against the runner-up in Pool C play. The Netherlands play the top seed of Pool C on Saturday at 1 p.m.
"The Puerto Rican team is a very good team," said Dutch manager Rod Delmonico. "They play as a team and they are very tough to beat. They are very well-coached. They play the game the way it is supposed to be played, and they have more energy and enthusiasm than the other teams that were in the Classic."
Will Gonzalez is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.