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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wright Lifts Team USA To WBC Semifinals In Walk-Off Fashion

When David Wright's flair landed in fair territory in right, Team USA was able to put the past behind them and ushered in a chance for a title. The United States scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth to overcome Puerto Rico and claim a 6-5 victory.

The events leading up to the game were not plesant; Team USA had to deal with being three men short for the game. Chipper Jones had to return to the Braves, Ryan Braun was scratched due to a strained ribcage muscle and Matt Lindstrom injured his right rotator cuff in the last game.

Ted Lilly started for the United States while Johnathan Sanchez started for Puerto Rico. Sanchez didn't make it out of the third inning and Lilly only pitched into the fourth.

Right fielder Alex Rios opened the scoring with a solo home run in the second inning. The United States countered in the bottom of the inning when with two men on, Brian McCann hit a sacrifice fly to left field where Wright made a headfirst slide to avoid the diving tag of catcher Geovany Soto. Shane Victorino then chased home Mark DeRosa to give Team USA the lead. Kevin Youkilis added a solo home run in the third inning to up the lead to 3-1.

Puerto Rico struck back in the fourth. Ivan Rodriguez led off with a walk. After Carlos Beltran struck out, Carlos Delgado launched a deep home run to center field to tie the score. Brian McCann hit a ball to the same spot in the bottom of the inning, but Carlos Beltran tracked the ball down and pulled the ball back in to take away a solo home run from the United States catcher.

Puerto Rico pushed across another run in the sixth. Ivan Rodriguez led off with a walk and moved to second on Beltran's sacrifice. Delgado was intentionally walked to bring up Rios, who singled Rodriguez home.

A bit of controversy occured in the bottom of the seventh. With Shane Victorino on second and Derek Jeter on first with one out, Jimmy Rollins flew out to left field. Rios, the right fielder, threw the ball back in and on a hop, the ball struck Victorino on the leg. It bounced away from the infielders and Victorino was able to take an extra base. The play was rendered moot, though, when Youkilis grounded out.

Team Puerto Rico added another run in the ninth off of Johanthan Broxton. Rios led off with a walk and stole a base. Soto grounded to third and then third baseman Ramon Vazquez singled Rios home.

J. C. Romero, who was brought in to face Brian McCann in the eighth with the tying run in scoring position, continued work into the ninth. Victorino and Brian Roberts hit consecutive singles, then Derek Jeter lined out to right, allowing Victorino to move to third. Rollins coaxed a walk out of Romero and Puerto Rico's closer, Fernando Cabrera, was brought in to try to hold the United States off. Youkilis waited out Cabrera and he got a walk, forcing in a run and bringing the United States one run closer. Cabrera was similarly wild to Wright, going to a 2-1 count against the third baseman. On the fourth pitch, Wright golfed a ball that would have been ball three down the right field line. It landed a few feet inside fair territory and the United States team rushed the field in celebration and dogpiled near second base.

If anyone thinks that the United States players don't care about this tournament enough, that victory celebration should dispel any of those notions.

W - Johnathan Broxton (1-0)
L - J. C. Romero (1-1)
HR - PUR - Alex Rios (1)
Carlos Delgado (2)
USA - Kevin Youkilis (3)


3B David Wright, United States - 3-4, GW 1B, BB, R, 2 RBI

RF Alex Rios, Puerto Rico - 2-3, HR, BB, 2 R, 2 RBI

CF Shane Victorino, United States - 3-4, R, RBI

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