Puerto Rico advanced to the semifinals and eliminated the United States from the World Baseball Classic with a 4-3 victory in Miami.
MIAMI — Once again, the United States could only watch as an opposing pitcher celebrated at the World Baseball Classic.
This time it was 38-year-old right-hander Nelson Figueroa, who became the pride of Puerto Rico on Friday night when he led his team into the WBC semifinals in a 4-3 victory that eliminated the U.S. team.
After starter Figueroa threw his last pitch to end the sixth inning, he leapt off the mound with a hoot, then ran to catcher Yadier Molina to share a hug.
“We were supreme underdogs against that lineup,” Figueroa said. “It was motivation to show them what kind of pitcher I was.”
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On Thursday, demonstrative Dominicans dominated the U.S. squad. The United States endured a scoreless streak of 14 innings spanning the two defeats, and Figueroa limited it to two singles in six shutout innings.
The U.S. team has not won the WBC — or reached the final — in three tries.
“When you play double-elimination, it’s a crapshoot,” U.S. manager Joe Torre said. “And Figueroa pitched his tail off tonight.”
J.C. Romero escaped a bases-loaded jam in the eighth inning and retired the final four batters for his first save. Center fielder Angel Pagan caught the final out, leading to a pileup of Puerto Rican players behind the mound.
“When I caught that ball, I was thinking about my country all the way,” Pagan said. “We overcome what everyone expected. I think nobody expected us to be this far, but it’s about what we believe and we believe we can go all the way.”
The Puerto Ricans advanced for the first time to the semifinals, which begin Sunday in San Francisco.
They will play the Dominican Republic on Saturday in Miami in a game that will determine seedings for the championship round.
Two-time defending champion Japan and the Netherlands round out the WBC final four.
• San Francisco right-hander Matt Cain gave up two hits in five scoreless innings as the Giants beat the Texas Rangers 5-2 in an exhibition game in Scottsdale, Ariz.
• Left-hander CC Sabathia of the New York Yankees got a bit stronger with each inning in his spring-training debut. After a rough first inning, Sabathia pitched four more innings, allowing two runs and eight hits in a 7-3 victory over Miami in Tampa, Fla.
Sabathia had arthroscopic surgery Oct. 25 to remove a bone spur from his left elbow.