Carlos Correa smacked a three-run homer for Puerto Rico (3-0), while Astros teammate Carlos Beltran added a run-scoring double. Cubs infielder Javier Baez drove in the first run for the island team, Dodgers utility man Enrique Hernandez added two RBIs and Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor contributed a sac fly.
Puerto Rico completely dominated its competition in Pool D, outscoring its opponents, 29-7, and managing at least nine runs each game.
“I mean, every game, the offense was there, and the pitching was there, so the defense was there,” Puerto Rico manager Edwin Rodriguez said. “So we have a very good balanced team in the defense and the offense. We have a very good combination of veteran players and young players with a lot of energy. They are very committed to what we’re trying to do here, and they showed that on the field. So we are very confident moving forward.”
In fact, Italian manager Marco Mazzieri said he believes Puerto Rico has a good shot to reach the championship round in Los Angeles (March 20-22 at Dodger Stadium).
“I believe so because they are good, good pitching, good fielding, good baseball, and besides, I think that they have the passion that they need to play a tournament like this,” Mazzieri said. “They are very proud. They looked good. It’s a very strong team. It could be that — I think they’re going to be in the last four games in L.A.”
Not surprisingly, Puerto Rico also feels good about its chances in WBC ’17.
“From the beginning, from before we started practicing, once we started getting together and knew who the guys on the roster were, there wasn’t a doubt that we could get past this first round because our goal is to get to the finals, get to L.A. and win it all,” Hernandez said.
Puerto Rico’s pitching staff shut down the Italians after Butera’s homer, as starter Jose Berrios (Twins) and Hiram Burgos (Brewers) combined to record 15 outs in a row before Chris Colabello (Indians) drew a walk with two outs in the seventh.
“I would like to give credit to the pitching of the Puerto Rican team because the first two innings, they adjusted on our hitters, and they started throwing the first pitch for strikes,” Mazzieri said. “We couldn’t adjust.”
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Correa goes yard: Correa launched a three-run homer to left to give Puerto Rico a 7-3 advantage in the fourth. Correa took Blue Jays Minor Leaguer Jordan Romano deep for his second homer of WBC ’17.
“Well, the quality of the game, the talent, they are young athletes with a lot of energy,” Rodriguez said. “Every one of them, one by one, the first, Carlos Correa, today against Italy, that three-run hit, Javier Baez the second night, and defensively, what we were expecting from them, every fan enjoyed it, definitely. I think this short three days here — because they are fans of each other, as well. They got together, and they played together.” More >
Nimmo leaves with injury: Italy starting center fielder Brandon Nimmo was removed from the game in the bottom of the fifth after he appeared to get injured while tracking down Hernandez’s RBI triple. The Mets outfielder came up lame as he chased the ball in the gap, but he was able to walk off the field on his own.
“Actually it’s a right hamstring strain, grade 1, so it should take him a couple of weeks,” Mazzieri said. More >
ITALY’S MAZZIERI TO RETIRE
Mazzieri told his team after the game that if it doesn’t play in the tiebreaker, Sunday would be his last game managing Italy.
“Well, it’s not about my career,” said Mazzieri, who has managed the Italian national team since 2007. “It’s about all the players that played for me, because wins and losses are in the books, but the emotions and the feelings, it doesn’t matter 20 years from now, it will be there forever. It’s about them, it’s not about me. I want to thank all of them through these 10 years that we had in different events and competitions because they made it special.” More >
“We’re really proud. We have a lot of pride, and what we showed is what we’re going to bring to the table. We’re going to bring a lot of energy, a lot of passion, and we’re going to play hard from the first pitch to the last pitch of the game. What you saw here is what you can expect from us.” — Hernandez, on Puerto Rico’s mindset
“I think we gave all out, and I hope that people watching from the stands appreciated that because these guys, they’ve been all out. They played with their heart, and not only with their heart, their souls and everything. We are pleased with our performances. We’re not so pleased with the outcome, but that’s sport.” — Mazzieri, on Italy’s showing
Italy: Mexico’s 11-9 win over Venezuela on Sunday set up a tiebreaking game between Italy and Mexico on Monday at 9 p.m. ET.
Puerto Rico: Puerto Rico is on to the second round in San Diego, where it will play the Dominican Republic on Tuesday at Petco Park. First pitch is scheduled for 9 p.m. ET.
The World Baseball Classic runs through March 22. In the U.S., games air live exclusively in English on MLB Network and on an authenticated basis via MLBNetwork.com/watch, while ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN provide the exclusive Spanish-language coverage. MLB.TV Premium subscribers in the U.S. have access to watch every tournament game live on any of the streaming service’s 400-plus supported devices. The tournament is being distributed internationally across all forms of television, internet, mobile and radio in territories excluding the U.S., Puerto Rico and Japan. Get tickets for games at Tokyo Dome, Estadio Charros de Jalisco in Mexico and Petco Park, as well as the Championship Round at Dodger Stadium, while complete coverage — including schedules, video, stats and gear — is available at WorldBaseballClassic.com.
Austin Laymance is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.