Dominican Republic caps dominant run through WBC

John Perrotto, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

SAN FRANCISCO -- Rain and cold didn't stop the Dominican Republic on Tuesday night, just as nothing else slowed the best team in the World Baseball Classic.
Minnesota Twins right-hander Samuel Deduno pitched five innings, combining with four relievers on a three-hit shutout, and the Dominicans capped an undefeated run through the WBC with a 3-0 victory over Puerto Rico in the championship game at AT&T Park.
The Dominican Republic went 8-0 and became the first time to go unbeaten in a WBC. It also was the first time a team other than Japan won the event. Japan captured the inaugural tournament in 2006, then repeated as champion in 2009.
"I had had enough of the shame of not having a trophy like this," Dominican Republic manager Tony Pena said while holding the championship hardware. "Thank God this group of men was able to accomplish what we want, which is to put our country at the top in terms of baseball. This trophy says it all for the D.R."
Heavy rain began falling in the third inning. Though it tapered off later in the game, the precipitation made for a miserable night at the waterfront ballpark, where the game-time temperature was 58 degrees.
The poor weather didn't bother Deduno, who has just six career major league wins. He allowed two hits while walking three and striking out five en route to the victory.
Deduno, 29, continually frustrated the Puerto Ricans, holding them hitless in seven at-bats with runners in scoring position. In all, Puerto Rico went 0-for-11 with runners on second or third.
"Samuel did a great job, just a great job," Pena said. "He was fighting himself at times, and he gave us five good innings. After that, I figured why not turn it over to the bullpen because they have been great."
The Detroit Tigers' Octavio Dotel, the Texas Rangers' Pedro Strop, the San Francisco Giants' Santiago Casilla and the Tampa Bay Rays' Fernando Rodney blanked Puerto Rico over the final four innings. Rodney notched his seventh save of the tourney, and the Dominican bullpen did not allow a run in its final 25 1/3 innings.
The only downside in the win was that Los Angeles Dodgers infielder Hanley Ramirez left the game after five innings with a jammed thumb.
Though Robinson Cano went 0-for-3 for the Dominicans in the final, he still made an impact and was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player. Cano hit .469 (15-for-32) with four doubles, two home runs and six RBI.
The Dominicans beat Puerto Rico, which went 5-4, in each of the tournament's three rounds. The Puerto Ricans failed to score in the last 23 innings of those three games.
The Dominican Republic jumped on Puerto Rico starter Giancarlo Alvarado in the bottom of the first inning, opening the scoring on a two-run double by Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Edwin Encarnacion.
Blue Jays shortstop Jose Reyes led off by doubling high off wall in right field. After a sacrifice bunt by Los Angeles Angels shortstop Erick Aybar advanced Reyes to third base, Puerto Rico manager Edwin Rodriguez decided to order an intentional walk to Cano.
While the move was understandable, it backfired badly when Encarnacion drove a double into the right-center-field gap to score Reyes and Cano.
"This is something that you never are going to get it done by yourself," Cano said. "So I want to thank the guys, my teammates, the manager, also the Dominican team for giving me that opportunity to be here with all these guys, all this great talent. And it's like I said, without my teammates, I would have never won an MVP. So I would say it's not only me, it's about the whole team. We proved that (throughout the tournament)."
Alvarado, who recently signed a minor league contract with the Colorado Rockies after spending the last three seasons in Japan, was pulled after the first inning in favor of Milwaukee Brewers prospect Hiram Burgos.
Burgos held the Dominicans in check until the fifth inning, when they increased their lead to 3-0. Aybar's two-out double into the right field corner scored Chicago White Sox center fielder Alejandro De Aza, who had singled.
Reyes and Aybar, the top two hitters in the batting order, had two hits each.
Puerto Rico's best chance came in the seventh inning when Cleveland Indians infielder Mike Aviles led off with a single off Dotel and Chicago White Sox right fielder Alex Rios walked. However, Strop came on and escaped trouble by striking out Carlos Rivera and Pedro Valdes, then getting to getting Jesus Feliciano to foul out as Kansas City Royals infielder Miguel Tejada made a tumbling catch while falling over the bullpen mound.
Rodney then closed it out, and as he had throughout the tournament, shot an imaginary arrow into the sky while his teammates pretended to see how far it landed.
"I just want to hold my country's flag in the air," Rodney said. "This is a great moment for all of us Dominicans. We proved we are the greatest baseball country in the world."
While Puerto Rico came up short in its upset bid, Rodriguez hopes his team was able to raise the profile of a sport that has seen its popularity decline on the island nation of just 3.5 million.
"I would say that we put Puerto Rico on the baseball map again," Rodriguez said. "Professional organized baseball is looking towards Puerto Rico again as a positive source of development of young players. It's motivating youth who are growing and coming forward and letting them know that professional baseball and the major leagues have so many opportunities.
"I think that should motivate them to continue developing in baseball as a sport, and I think we did accomplish that mission in this tournament."
NOTES: St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina was in Puerto Rico's lineup after missing Monday's workout because of illness. He batted cleanup and went 0-for-4. ... Tejada, who has played for the Dominican Republic in all three WBCs, expressed an interest in managing the team when the event is next held in 2017 ... The attendance was 35,703 in the 41,503-seat ballpark.

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