Unbeaten Dominicans Win World Baseball Classic 3-0

Puerto Rico eliminated two-time reigning Classic champion Japan with a 3-1 victory Sunday night to make in all-Caribbean final

By JANIE McCAULEY
|  Wednesday, Mar 20, 2013  |  Updated 5:03 AM PDT
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Unbeaten Dominicans Win World Baseball Classic 3-0

AP

The Dominican Republic's Carlos Santana, left, and Fernando Rodney celebrate after beating Puerto Rico in the championship game of the World Baseball Classic in San Francisco.

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Samuel Deduno pleaded with Tony Pena to leave him in the game — the outing of his life, his country across his chest.

Pena stuck with the demonstrative Dominican Republic right-hander — with his island nation's World Baseball Classic hopes hanging on that managerial move. Deduno made Pena change his mind, and he never changes his mind.

The pitcher did his part by striking out Angel Pagan, and four innings later it was finally time for a party four years in the making.

The Dominicans have their World Baseball Classic crown, at last. Dominican Republic President Danilo Medina understood the magnitude of this victory, and made sure to call right away to offer his congratulations after his countrymen beat Puerto Rico 3-0 on Tuesday night.

"We appreciate that from the president," Jose Reyes said. "This win is all about the Dominican Republic. They were hungry waiting for this moment, and we did it."

Cheers of "Dominicana! Dominicana!" rang out through the rain at AT&T Park all the way to the lively streets of Santo Domingo.

That embarrassing first-round exit at the hands of the Netherlands in 2009, forget about it now.

"I had enough of the shame of not having the trophy like this," Pena said. "And, thank God this group of men was able to accomplish what we wanted, which is to put our country at the top in terms of baseball. This is the greatest gift we can give to our country."

Edwin Encarnacion hit a two-run double in the first inning that held up, and the Dominicans capped a dominant, unbeaten run through the WBC as the first winner not from Japan in the tournament's short history.

"Tomorrow will be a national holiday," said Moises Alou, the proud Dominican general manager. "It was a tremendous win."

Robinson Cano earned MVP honors, Erick Aybar added an RBI double to back Deduno, who threw his arms into the air in delight after watching a run-saving defensive gem by center fielder Alejandro De Aza in a tough fifth.

The Dominican fans — fanaticos, indeed — didn't let the Bay Area's wet weather keep them from dancing in the stands, waving flags and tooting horns. Flags became makeshift ponchos.

It was fitting, too, perhaps, considering the World Series champion Giants clinched the NL pennant against the Cardinals in a downpour on this very field last fall.

Some 50,000 more supporters gathered to watch on televisions inside and outside of Estadio Quisqueya in the Dominican capital city.

"We want to enjoy every single moment, because we don't know if this group will be together again. I doubt it," Pena said.

After Fernando Rodney struck out Luis Figueroa to end it, the Dominicans rushed the mound — each player waving his own flag. Well, Rodney held up his lucky plantain that served him well for the second straight day. He won't eat this platano, which he said "is going to be my second trophy."

"This is my gold medal," he said. "It will be my black diamond, because it's changing color. I kept telling everybody to relax and not to worry about (the pressure)."

The Dominicans (8-0) won it in the city where countrymen Felipe, Jesus and the late Matty Alou made history in 1963 when they appeared in the same Giants outfield for several games. Moises Alou is the son of former San Francisco skipper, Felipe.

No matter their team, Caribbeans had so much to cheer in the championship of a tournament missing the star-studded American team yet again. The U.S. failed to reach the final for the third time in as many WBCs.

And Puerto Rico eliminated two-time reigning Classic champion Japan with a 3-1 victory Sunday night to make in all-Caribbean final.

This game gave new meaning to the idea of a Caribbean championship.

Deduno followed up a fine outing in a win against the Americans last Thursday with another strong performance that will send him back to the Minnesota Twins with some nice momentum.

Deduno struck out five in five scoreless innings, allowing two hits and walking three to finish with a 0.69 ERA for the tournament. And Rodney struck out two and finished for his seventh save as the bullpen closed out this special run with 25 2-3 scoreless innings. The relievers didn't allow a run after the fourth inning of their first-round victory against Puerto Rico on March 10 in San Juan.

In the top of the fifth, the grounds crew scurried out to rake the mound after it became slippery in the rain and Deduno walked Alex Rios on five pitches to lead off the inning.

After Carlos Rivera flied out, De Aza ran down Andy Gonzalez's long fly to the gap in left-center and made a reaching snag at the warning track with his back to the infield.

Deduno then walked Jesus Feliciano. That's when Pena paid the pitcher a mound visit and stayed with him, and Deduno struck out Pagan swinging after falling behind 2-0. Deduno pumped his fists again as he charged off the mound and was surrounded by celebratory teammates.

The Dominicans became the first unbeaten WBC champion, beating Team Puerto Rico for the third time in this Classic.

And now they earn the distinction of world champion, too — the first time in WBC history.

Cano had a big hand in it.

The New York Yankees star finished his sensational Classic batting .469 (15 for 32) with two home runs, six RBIs, six runs scored and two doubles. His 15 hits are a WBC record. Cano also earned MVP honors in each of the first two rounds. Encarnacion finished with six WBC RBIs in the WBC.

"I'll tell you one thing: Tonight we're going to celebrate, tomorrow we're going to celebrate, and Thursday we're going to worry about spring training," Cano said.

After drawing a pair of intentional walks a night earlier, Cano had another in the first inning against loser Giancarlo Alvarado.

The Puerto Rican right-hander surrendered Encarnacion's double two pitches later, and was done after one shaky inning featuring 22 pitches and only 10 strikes.

Hiram Burgos relieved and struck out five in 4 2-3 innings.

"We didn't have a lot of big names," Puerto Rico manager Edwin Rodriguez said. "The people who were here wanted to be here. They had a mission, and that was to give everything. I think that's an example of what can be accomplished when you have interest and you really put your passion toward a cause."

After Miguel Tejada started at third base and Hanley Ramirez played designated hitter a night earlier in a 4-1 semifinal win against the Netherlands, Ramirez returned to third and Aybar was back in the lineup at DH. Tejada replaced the Dodgers' Ramirez at third in the sixth and made a diving catch in the bullpen area in which he landed hard on his left side and came up grimacing.

Ramirez was lifted because he jammed his thumb lunging for a groundball. Mosies Alou said Ramirez would be examined further.

Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig was among those to attend the game — available on television to 440 million households worldwide in 200 countries and territories, and in 15 languages — that drew 35,703 fans on a cool, drizzly March night at AT&T Park.

MLB executive Tim Brosnan called the WBC an "unqualified, over-the-top success."

He doesn't have to tell the Dominicans.

"This will always be with us in our hearts," Pena said.

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