Unbeaten Dominicans win WBC crown 3-0
AP Baseball Writer
SAN FRANCISCO — Cheers of “Dominicana! Dominicana!” rang out through the rain at AT&T Park all the way to the lively streets of Santo Domingo.
The Dominican Republic has its World Baseball Classic crown, at last.
Edwin Encarnacion hit a two-run double in the first inning that held up, and the Dominicans capped a dominant, unbeaten run through the WBC with a 3-0 win against Puerto Rico for the championship Tuesday night.
“Tomorrow will be a national holiday,” said Moises Alou, the proud Dominican general manager. “It was a tremendous win.”
Robinson Cano earned MVP honors, Erick Aybar added an RBI double to back winner Samuel Deduno, and the demonstrative Dominican righty threw his arms into the air in delight after watching a run-saving defensive gem by center fielder Alejandro De Aza in a tough fifth.
The Dominican fans — fanaticos, indeed — didn’t let the Bay Area’s wet weather keep them from dancing in the stands, waving flags and tooting horns. Flags became makeshift ponchos.
It was fitting, too, perhaps, considering the World Series champion Giants clinched the NL pennant against the Cardinals in a downpour on this very field last fall.
Some 50,000 more supporters gathered to watch on televisions inside and outside of Estadio Quisqueya in the Dominican capital city.
“There will not be anybody watching any other channel — soap opera, news, nothing,” manager Tony Pena said before the game.
Now, the Dominicans get their long-awaited fiesta. A party they figured to have in 2009, when the Netherlands spoiled the plan by beating them twice for a stunning first-round exit.
After Fernando Rodney struck out Luis Figueroa to end it, the Dominicans rushed the mound — each player waving his own flag. Well, Rodney held up his lucky plantain that served him well for the second straight day. He won’t eat this platano, which he said “is going to be my second trophy.”
“This is my gold medal,” he said. “It will be my black diamond, because it’s changing color. I kept telling everybody to relax and not to worry about (the pressure).”
The Dominicans (8-0) won it in the city where countrymen Felipe, Jesus and the late Matty Alou made history in 1963 when they appeared in the same Giants outfield for several games. Moises Alou is the son of former San Francisco skipper, Felipe.
No matter their team, Caribbeans had so much to cheer in the championship of a tournament missing the star-studded American team yet again. The U.S. failed to reach the final for the third time in as many WBCs.
And Puerto Rico eliminated two-time reigning Classic champion Japan with a 3-1 victory Sunday night to make in all-Caribbean final.
This game gave new meaning to the idea of a Caribbean championship.
Deduno followed up a fine outing in a win against the Americans last Thursday with another strong performance that will send him back to the Minnesota Twins with some nice momentum.
Deduno struck out five in five scoreless innings, allowing two hits and walking three to finish with a 0.69 ERA for the tournament. And Rodney struck out two and finished for his seventh save as the bullpen closed out this special run with 25 2-3 scoreless innings. The relievers didn’t allow a run after the fourth inning of their first-round victory against Puerto Rico on March 10 in San Juan.
“I’m excited and I’m thrilled,” said reliever Santiago Casilla, who won the WBC title and World Series championship in all of about five months.
In the top of the fifth, the grounds crew scurried out to rake the mound after it became slippery in the rain and Deduno walked Alex Rios on five pitches to lead off the inning.
After Carlos Rivera flied out, De Aza ran down Andy Gonzalez’s long fly to the gap in left-center and made a reaching snag at the warning track with his back to the infield.
Deduno then walked Jesus Feliciano. Pena paid the pitcher a mound visit but stuck with him, and Deduno struck out Angel Pagan swinging after falling behind 2-0. Deduno pumped his fists again as he charged off the mound and was surrounded by celebratory teammates.
In the bottom half, De Aza did it with his bat. He snapped an 0-for-12 stretch when he laid down a perfect bunt single toward third.
The Dominicans became the first unbeaten WBC champion, beating Team Puerto Rico for the third time in this Classic.
And now they earn the distinction of world champion, too — the first time in WBC history.
Cano had a big hand in it.
The New York Yankees star finished his sensational Classic batting .469 (15 for 32) with two home runs, six RBIs, six runs scored and two doubles.
He also earned MVP honors in each of the first two rounds. Encarnacion finished with six RBIs in the WBC.
“I’ll tell you one thing: Tonight we’re going to celebrate, tomorrow we’re going to celebrate, and Thursday we’re going to worry about spring training,” Cano said.
After drawing a pair of intentional walks a night earlier, Cano had another in the first inning against loser Giancarlo Alvarado.
The Puerto Rican right-hander surrendered Encarnacion’s double two pitches later, and was done after one shaky inning featuring 22 pitches and only 10 strikes.
Hiram Burgos relieved and struck out five in 4 2-3 innings.
After Miguel Tejada started at third base and Hanley Ramirez played designated hitter a night earlier in a 4-1 semifinal win against the Netherlands, Ramirez returned to third and Erick Aybar was back in the lineup at DH. Tejada replaced the Dodgers’ Ramirez at third in the sixth and made a diving catch in the bullpen area in which he landed hard on his left side and came up grimacing.
Pena’s move paid off as Aybar doubled and singled and Ramirez added a base hit in the winning effort.
Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig was among those to attend the game — available on television to 440 million households worldwide in 200 countries and territories, and in 15 languages — that drew 35,703 fans on a cool, drizzly March night at AT&T Park.
NOTES: The Puerto Ricans were 0 for 11 with runners in scoring position. … Casilla walked major league teammate Pagan on five pitches to start the eighth. … Jose Reyes tripled in the seventh for Team DR. … Attendance for the three games in the Giants’ ballpark was 96,913 for a tournament total of 885,212. That surpassed the previous record of 801,410 in 2009. … … Japan’s loss to Puerto Rico on Sunday was watched by 51 percent of potential viewers in Japan, MLB said. It was the largest share for any of Japan’s WBC games this year. The game also was the most-watched sporting event in the past year in Puerto Rico, with the final moments getting a 74 share.