The Dominican Republic won the third World Baseball Classic Tuesday night, capping off a spectacular 8-0 run with a 3-0 shutout of Puerto Rico.
Robinson Cano was named tournament MVP, hitting .469 with two home runs, six RBIs, four doubles and six runs scored.
Nelson Cruz and Edwin Encarnacion also drove in six runs a piece, and Fernando Rodney got the save in seven of the Dominican’s eight wins.
Rodney didn’t give up a run in 7.1 innings of work in the WBC, striking out eight and walking three.
Two-time defending champions Japan lost to Puerto Rico 3-1 in the semifinals. The Dominican Republic dispatched the Netherlands 4-1 in the other semifinal.
Puerto Rico’s patchwork pitching continued to get the job done. Dodgers’ Spring Training invitee Mario Santiago pitched 4.1 innings of scoreless ball, with two strikeouts, giving up only two hits and one walk.
Five other Puerto Rican pitchers combined for 4.2 innings of one-run ball, and Alex Rios hit a two-run home run to power the streaky Puerto Ricans to their first ever WBC Final.
Puerto Rico did it mostly with pitching and some timely hitting.
Its best hitter was Blue Jays’ infielder Mike Aviles who hit .323 with a homer and nine RBI and four runs scored.
Stars like Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina were mostly neutralized, with Molina hitting only .259.
Beltran did not fare much better, hitting only .188 for the tournament with one RBI.
Meanwhile, bereft of any major league talent, Japan lost for the first time ever in the WBC. After dominating Round 2 play, Japan fell short against the Cinderella Puerto Ricans. Much like the all-star laden USA lineup before them, the Japanese got completely shut down by mostly minor league pitchers.
Despite giving up a run in the first inning, Padres’ starter Edinson Volquez settled in for the Dominican Republic to give them five innings of one-run ball.
The Netherlands’ Diego Markwell pitched well for four innings before the wheels fell off in the fifth as the Dominicans scored four runs keyed by a Carlos Santana double and RBI-singles from Jose Reyes and Nelson Cruz.
Kelvin Herrera of the Royals and Pedro Strop of the Orioles came in to shut down the Dutch for three innings to set up Rodney in the ninth. Rodney struck out two of the three batters he faced for the save.
Despite all of the all-stars in the Dominican lineup, it was its pitching that carried it. It sported a 1.75 ERA, the best in the WBC.
Rodney and Strop were both flawless out of the pen, and blue-collar guys like Samuel Deduno and Wandy Rodriguez helped set it up for the phenomenal Dominican relief staff.
It was a rematch between the powerful Dominican Republic and scrappy Puerto Rico.
The Dominicans sent the aforementioned Deduno to the mound, and the Puerto Ricans sent Giancarlo Alvarez, both of whom have minimal big league experience.
However, with the Puerto Rican offense scuffling and the Dominican offense thriving, the Dominicans struck early, and never looked back.
Jose Reyes led the game off with a double, Erick Aybar sacrificed Reyes over to third, Robinson Cano received an intentional walk, and finally Edwin Encarnacion doubled to drive-in Reyes and Cano.
Four Dominican relievers came in, each pitched a scoreless inning, including Fernando Rodney for his seventh save.
Erick Aybar doubled in an insurance run in the fifth, and powered by Rodney’s signature plantain, the Dominican Republic sealed the deal 3-0.
The Dominicans and the Puerto Ricans celebrated on the field together, and the WBC was the highest-rated sporting event of the past decade in the Dominican Republic.
Although some American fans lost interest once Team USA was eliminated, the tournament received record ratings in the Caribbean, Asia, and the Netherlands.
MLB Commissioner Bud Selig considered this year’s WBC to be a huge success thanks to the strides the game of baseball made internationally.
The Dominican team approached the contest very seriously this time around, and the pride they demonstrated in playing for their country was evident.
Selig was especially impressed with the strides made in Europe. The Netherlands has a brand new national stadium coming that it would love to see host an MLB opener in 2015.
Perhaps even sooner, the Dodgers have been rumored to be in negotiations to open the 2014 season in Australia. It is also a possibility that the 2017 WBC Final will be held abroad.
There were some great, action-packed games in this year’s WBC. If only Team USA had advanced farther, it would have been a marketing dream.
Although some U.S. fans may not have taken in the WBC final, it was baseball at its finest.
Here’s to hoping that the 2017 WBC will be just as good as 2013, and that Team USA can finally advance to a final.