Puerto Rico is the team to beat in World Baseball Classic

Photo by AP Photo/Luis Gutierrez

By Robert Dominguez

Baseball’s Final Four has been decided — and the Dominican Republic won’t be one of them.

Heavily favored to repeat as World Baseball Classic champions thanks to a star-studded lineup, the Dominican team was beaten 6-3 by the U.S. Saturday night at Petco Park in San Diego.

The loss kept the Dominican team out of the WBC semifinals,  while the U.S. moves on to play Japan Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.

Puerto Rico,  which is a perfect 6-0 after the first two rounds of the international tournament — and now looms as the team to beat in the Dominicans’ absence — plays The Netherlands on Monday night, March 20,  at Dodger Stadium.

Saturday’s game between the Dominicans and the U.S. was highlighted  by a laser-beam  home run by  Team USA’s Giancarlo Stanton of the Atlanta Braves, and a spectacular, over-the-wall grab of a sure Manny Machado homer by U.S. centerfielder Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles.

“We did everything that we (could) to try to win the game, but they played better than us,”  pitcher Ervin Santana, who started for the Dominican team, told MLB.com.

“We got a lot of opportunities to score runs and we didn’t get the job done, and they took every opportunity that they had to score runs and they did it.”

The Dominican Republic, which won the previous  WBC championship in 2013 on an 8-0 run, had beaten the U.S. last week   in  dramatic fashion with a five-run comeback before a sold-out Marlins Park in  Miami. The team finished tournament play at 4-2.

Other than Puerto Rico and the Dominicans, Latin American and Caribbean teams didn’t fare that well this year. Colombia and Mexico, both  with 1-2 records, never made it out of the first round. 

Cuba ended up 2-4 after three second-round defeats ,while  Venezuela (2-5) also couldn’t  advance past the second round after three straight losses, including a 13-2 trouncing by Puerto Rico.

The winners of the Puerto Rico-Netherlands and U.S.-Japan games will meet for the WBC championship at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday, March 22.

Robert Dominguez, a senior editor at the New York Daily News, is also the managing editor of Viva, The News’ Latino lifestyle magazine, and is the co-author of “Bronx Bummers: The Unofficial History of the New York Yankees’ Bad Boys, Blunders and Brawls.” rdominguez@nydailynews.com

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