P.R. in must-win territory vs. Team USA
Sanchez must lead his country to victory or else it's eliminated
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
Coming off its first loss in the tournament, a hard-fought 2-0 defeat against Venezuela on Monday, the Puerto Rican squad will face a United States team that it crushed on Saturday by an 11-1 count. That game saw the mercy rule invoked, with the contest stopped in the seventh inning.
This time around, any win will do. Because for either side, defeat means the end of the tournament. The winner advances to the semifinals of the Classic next weekend at Dodger Stadium, and it gets to play Venezuela for the Pool 2 championship on Wednesday night. Tuesday's game starts at 7 p.m. ET, with Jonathan Sanchez pitching against fellow lefty Ted Lilly.
"We have to take this game positive," Puerto Rico catcher Ivan Rodriguez said after the defeat. "We played good. They played better. That's why they won. They pitched good. What we've got to do is just focus and try to come tomorrow and try to do the things we've got to do. Just put this game behind and concentrate tomorrow and do the things we've got to do. Defense, pitching, offense -- what we've been doing this whole World Baseball Classic. If we do that, we're going to be all right."
Before the tournament, Puerto Rico likely would have been considered an underdog to a USA team that has the most lineup depth of any team in the Classic. But a raft of United States injuries, combined with Saturday's score, changed the perception of this matchup. Puerto Rico may not be the favorite, but it's certainly at least in position to pick up another win.
"Tomorrow, we have to come in with the mind-set of winning," said outfielder Carlos Beltran, who has been torrid in Miami. "We're going to play against a U.S. team that's a great team. It's practically an All-Star team. We're going to out on the ball field and try to score early. Any time you score early as a team, the team gets its confidence. ... We're pros. You win some games, you lose some games throughout the season, and we lost today."
Sanchez pitched brilliantly in his previous Classic start, shutting out The Netherlands on two hits and one walk over four innings. He'll have a different task against Team USA, but he'll also have teammates eager to play the game of their lives.
"I know we'll be ready to play," said Ian Snell, who took the loss on Monday. "That's all I know. Just the faces on the guys, they were devastated. I can feel that pain, because I was the one that was pitching."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.