SAN DIEGO -- Well, that didn’t start well for Team USA. Nor did it end happily, either.
After giving up four runs in the first inning, the U.S. went on to lose 6-5 to Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic on Friday night. The victory guaranteed Puerto Rico a spot in the WBC final round next week in Los Angeles.
"This is a huge victory for our people, for our country," Puerto Rico designated hitter Carlos Beltran said. "I know they are having a great time, and I know they are very proud. We are hoping in God to finish the mission."
Team USA, meanwhile, will play the WBC reigning champion Dominican Republic on Saturday night with the winner going to the final round as well. The U.S. has never reached the WBC championship game. The Dominican Republic beat Puerto Rico in the championship in 2013.
Five things to know about the games Friday and Saturday:
1. Rough start: U.S. starter Marcus Stroman began the game by allowing six consecutive singles to Angel Pagan, Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa, Beltran, Yadier Molina and Javier Baez to give Puerto Rico a 4-0 lead. Stroman recovered after that and kept Puerto Rico scoreless until leaving the game with two outs in the fifth inning.
Stroman, by the way, has Puerto Rican ancestry but said he wanted to play for the U.S. because he is an American.
2. Failed comeback: After falling behind 4-0 in the first, the U.S. slowly crept back into the game with Eric Hosmer driving in Nolan Arenado in the second inning, followed by Buster Posey homering in the fifth inning and San Diego native Adam Jones homering in the sixth. But then Puerto Rico added two runs in the sixth on a two-out throwing error by Arenado, who has won a Gold Glove in all four of his major league seasons. Ouch!
The U.S. had a promising chance to come back when it put runners on first and second with none out in the ninth, but closer Edwin Diaz followed up by striking out Posey and Paul Goldschmidt. Brandon Crawford tripled home two runs to make it 6-5, but Josh Harrison then struck out to end the game.
3. Looking ahead: Saturday night’s game between the U.S. and the Dominican Republic should be a good one. The U.S. took a 5-0 lead into the sixth inning against the Dominicans last weekend in the first round at Miami but blew the lead and the game. The Dominican Republic also has won 12 of its past 13 WBC games. Danny Duffy will start for the U.S., while Ervin Santana starts for the D.R. Duffy was 12-3 with a 3.51 ERA with the Royals last season; Santana was 7-11 with a 3.38 ERA for the Twins.
Puerto Rico plays Venezuela in the early afternoon, but the outcome is meaningless since P.R. has already advanced to the next round with a 2-0 record, while Venezuela has been eliminated with an 0-2 record.
5. Increased attendance: The crowds had not been as good at Petco Park as they had been at several of the other WBC venues, with the first three games in San Diego all drawing fewer than 17,000 fans. As one fan said while looking at the empty seats during Thursday night’s game between the Dominican Republic and Venezuela:
“It looks like the crowds for the Padres in late April when they’re already out of the race.’’
Friday’s St. Patrick’s Day crowd, however, was far larger with an announced attendance of 32,463, or roughly double the fans at each of the previous three WBC games at Petco. It also was very enthusiastic, especially for the Puerto Rico fans. Hopefully, there will be even more fans for the decisive finale Saturday night.