The World Baseball Classic is down to five teams after Puerto Rico rallied to beat Italy 4-3 on Wednesday night, and send the Italians packing after an improbable run through Pool D. Puerto Rico will play the loser of Thursday's Dominican Republic-United States matchup, with the winners of those games both advancing to the semifinals in San Francisco.
Italy and Puerto Rico traded zeroes over the first four innings before Italy got on the board first in the fifth inning. The Italians loaded the bases with one out after a single, a catchers interference call on Yadier Molina, and another single. With the bases loaded, Anthony Rizzo doubled off of new Puerto Rico pitcher Xavier Cedeno to clear the bases and bring in three runs, giving Italy a 3-0 lead.
But Puerto Rico began to rally back in the sixth thanks to some sloppy play from Italy. Shorstop Anthony Granado made a pair of errors, giving Puerto Rico second life and allowing them to plate their first run of the game. In the bottom of the eighth, with Italy six outs from eliminating Puerto Rico, disaster struck. Chris Cooper walked Carlos Beltrean to lead off the inning, and he was replaced by Nick Pugliese, who allowed a single to Yadier Molina. Brian Sweeney replaced Pugliese and got a ground ball from Mike Aviles, but Italy couldn't turn the double play. Beltran scored to make it a 3-2 game, and Alex Rios followed up the fielders choice from Aviles by singling to put the go-ahead run on first with just one out. Pat Venditte replaced Sweeney and allowed a game-tying sac fly to Luis Figueroa, and Rios alertly moved up to second on the play. Andy Gonzalez followed up with a grounder to short that Alex Liddi deflected to Jack Santora, who rushed his throw and buried it into the ground, allowing Rios to score from second to give Puerto Rico a 4-3 lead.
Things got a little hairy in the ninth after a walk with two outs to Rizzo, but Fernando Cabrera struck out Liddi to end the game and Italy's WBC run.
Wednesday's game showed why baseball is a game of inches that can turn on a moment's notice. Italy had a great run in the Classic, but things just didn't go their way against Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is now one win away from heading to San Francisco, but will need to beat either the US or Dominican to get there – two teams that have already beat them in this year's WBC.