Puerto Rico advanced to the 2013 World Baseball Classic championship game on Sunday, eliminating two-time defending champions Team Japan despite an injury to their starting pitcher, an 0-fer from Yadier Molina, and a late rally that pitted Shinnosuke Abe, perhaps the best player in Japan, against former Cardinals cast-off J.C. Romero.
Puerto Rico held Japan's bats down early, with Los Angeles Dodgers farmhand Mario Santiago going four scoreless innings before leaving with what was immediately called "forearm tightness." A dominant inning of work from Jose De La Torre followed, and with Kenta Maeda out of the game after five Puerto Rico finally added two runs in the seventh on a home run from Alex Rios—his first RBIs of the tournament after hitting .136 in his first seven WBC games.
It was good news for Molina, who'd left Beltran on base with two outs the inning before.
In the bottom of the eighth the Japanese finally got on the board, putting back-to-back-to-back hits on reliever Randy Fontanez. But with runners on and one out Romero came in to retire Yomiuri star Abe, benefiting from a bizarre baserunning mistake on a double-steal gone wrong. (Which shortened the inning and the Japan threat and provided for an unusual case-study in why you shouldn't run on Yadier Molina.)
Puerto Rico will go on to face the winner of Monday's semifinal matchup between the Netherlands and the Dominican Republic. Thus far the Puerto Ricans are 0-2 against the Dominicans, who beat them 4-2 in Round 1 and 2-0 to close out Round 2.