Seven Fernando Rodney appearances, seven invisible arrows fired into the sky, seven Dominican Republic victories. Could the manager Tony Pena have drawn this up any better? The Dominicans have brought a particular panache to this year’s Classic, showcasing flashy defense, highlight reel homers, and everything that goes with it.
That flair was all on display again Monday night against the Netherlands from the get-go. In the top of the 1st inning left fielder Moises Sierra made the play of the tournament. With one run already home in the inning and Jurickson Profar threatening at 3rd, Andruw Jones stepped to the plate. After taking a couple of pitches, Jones skyed a high fly ball down the line in left. Sierra, currently a member of the Blue Jays organization, took off in pursuit, leaped sideways over the wall, and avoided a fan attempting to make the catch, all while snagging the baseball. The play was an absolute thing of beauty.
Edison Volquez would calm down from that point, pitching a game that I would describe as effectively wild. Volquez wasn’t exactly spot on with his locations and he still had thrown more balls than strikes as late as the 4th inning, but it didn’t come back to bite him. Instead the Dutch hitters appeared to be anxious at the plate, lunging and corkscrewing at pitches well off the plate.
The Dominicans finally made their breakthrough in the 5th inning thanks to a pair of doubles by Carlos Santana and Moises Sierra. Reyes followed later that inning with an RBI single and he later came around to score on a wild pitch, putting the Dominicans up for good at 4-1.
After Monday night’s 4-1 victory over the feisty Dutch club, all that stands between the Dominicans and a flawless World Baseball Classic is Puerto Rico. The pitching match-ups not exactly the best we’ve had in the tournament, but it’s the one were going to get. Giancarlo Alvarado will toe the rubber for the Puerto Ricans with Samuel Deduno going for the Dominicans.
Alvarado was a career minor leaguer in the States before heading to the Far East, where has spent the past 3 seasons as a starter pitching for the Hiroshima Carp and the Yokohama Bay Stars. Alvarado’s 1-0 in this year’s WBC with a 2.16 ERA in 8.1 innings pitched. The right-hander hasn’t faced a lineup that has anywhere near the depth and power of the Dominicans. He squared off against the Spainards in his win while taking a no-decision against Italy and their lineup featuring the slugging compadres otherwise known as Anthony Rizzo, Nick Punto, Alex Liddi, and Chris Denorfia.
Samuel Deduno also has a 1-0 record in the Classic but he’s been much better on the mound. He absolutely dominated Spain, striking out 5 in 4 innings while looking very impressive against a stacked U.S. lineup, throwing 4 innings with another 7 whiffs while giving up just 1 lone run.
There’s also the fact that the Dominicans have already topped Puerto Rico twice this tournament. They bested commonwealth 4-2 to win Pool C and then beat the Puerto Ricans 2-0 to advance as the top seed in the semifinals.
More pressingly, the Puerto Rican lineup featuring Yadi Molina, Carlos Beltran, and Angel Pagan managed just 1 run off the stout Dominican bullpen. For that reason alone it’s crucial that Puerto Rico is able to score a couple of early runs because any other outcome could spell defeat. Molina’s been calling excellent games behind the plate and if he can find a way to guide this staff through one more win it would be his finest hour. Even then it may not matter if the powerhouse Dominican lineup led by Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz thumps Giancarlo Alvarado like the career minor leaguer he is.
Prediction: Make it seven invisible arrows in seven games for the Dominican Republic and Fernando Rodney as they’re my pick in tonight’s game. I think they’ll take the 2013 World Baseball Classic, completing a dominating, undefeated 2-week stretch of games.