Puerto Rico manager Edwin Rodriguez shuffled his lineup Wednesday in the hopes it might "create an offensive reaction."
It never really happened. In the end, it was more of an Italian implosion that helped the Puerto Ricans fight off elimination in the second round of the World Baseball Classic.
Trailing by three runs, Puerto Rico took advantage of three errors by Italy shortstops and used some aggressive baserunning to rally for a 4-3 win in front of 25,787 fans at Marlins Park.
Down 3-1 entering the eighth inning, Puerto Rico first scored on a Mike Aviles’ groundout and then a sacrifice fly by pinch hitter Luis Figueroa to tie it.
With two outs and Alex Rios standing on second, Andy Gonzalez sent a ground ball toward third. After deflecting off the glove of third baseman Alex Liddi, shortstop Jack Santora caught it and fired to first base. But his throw bounced in front of and off the glove of Anthony Rizzo. Rios, who never stopped at third base, came racing around toward the plate with what turned out to be the winning run.
“I saw him rounding,” Rizzo said. “I figured if I can pick that I’d be able throw him out. You know, the game just -- it’s a funny game. Just tip your hats to Puerto Rico for not giving up.”
Rizzo, who put the Italians ahead 3-0 when he stroked a bases-clearing double into the gap in right center with one out in the fifth, drew a two out walk in the ninth off reliever J.C. Romero. But Liddi flew out against Fernando Cabrera to end the game.
It was a frustrating loss and rough way to get eliminated for the Italians, who blew a four-run lead against the Dominican Republic on Tuesday.
“We were six outs away with a two run lead today and we had a two run lead with eight outs to go against the Dominican Republic [Tuesday], so obviously it’s very tough to take both games,” said Italy manager Marco Mazzieri, who pulled starting shortstop Anthony Granato after he made two errors in the sixth that led to Puerto Rico’s first run.
“I don’t think it’s that much nerves. Sometimes there’s a situation where one play could affect the next play. I think they were just better than us closing out what they started.”
Puerto Rico finished 1 for 15 with runners in scoring position in the game and is now 1 for 22 in Round 2 in those situations.
Puerto Rico will now face the loser of the United States and Dominican Republic on Friday night, with the winner advancing to the semifinals in San Francisco.