MIAMI – Once again, the United States could only watch as an opposing pitcher celebrated at the World Baseball Classic.
This time it was 38-year-old right-hander Nelson Figueroa, who became the pride of Puerto Rico on Friday night when he led his team into the semifinals and eliminated the Americans, 4-3.
After Figueroa threw his last pitch to end the sixth inning, he leaped off the mound with a hoot like a kid at recess, then ran to catcher Yadier Molina to share a hug.
On Thursday, demonstrative Dominicans dominated the All-Star-laden U.S. lineup. The Americans endured a scoreless streak of 14 innings spanning the two defeats, and Figueroa limited them to two singles in six shutout innings.
J.C. Romero escaped a bases-loaded jam in the eighth and retired the final four batters for his first save. The last out triggered a pileup of Puerto Ricans behind the mound.
They advanced for the first time to the semifinals, which begin Sunday in San Francisco. They’ll play the Dominican Republic today in the final game in Miami, which will determine seedings for the championship round.
Two-time defending champion Japan and the Netherlands round out the final four.
Figueroa (2-0) has a modest 20-35 record for six teams in nine major-league seasons, with his most recent big-league game in May 2011. After pitching in Triple-A last year, he dominated the Americans, allowing only a single by Brandon Phillips in the fourth and a single by Jimmy Rollins in the sixth.
Puerto Rico scored all four of its runs with two out. Mike Aviles had an RBI single in the first, and Andy Gonzalez doubled home two runs in the sixth.
Ryan Vogelsong (1-1) gave up two runs in 5 2/3 innings.
When Figueroa hit the tournament’s 80-pitch limit, Giovanni Soto came on and gave up an RBI single to Giancarlo Stanton in the seventh.
Trailing 4-1, the Americans continued their rally in the eighth. Rollins and Phillips singled off Jose De La Torre, and Ryan Braun followed with an RBI double. Joe Mauer walked to load the bases, and with two out, Fernando Cabrera walked Ben Zobrist to force in a run and make it 4-3.
Eric Hosmer then grounded out again Romero, who had a perfect ninth.
Hall to honor Jobe
Dr. Frank Jobe, who developed the elbow procedure known as Tommy John surgery that has helped baseball players extend their careers, will be honored during Hall of Fame induction weekend on July 27.
Tommy John will attend the ceremony to help honor Jobe for his impact on the sport. John was diagnosed with a ruptured MCL in his left elbow in 1974 when Jobe tried a procedure in which he removed a tendon from John’s forearm and repaired his elbow.
Around the leagues
Mets third baseman David Wright has a moderate strain on the left side of his rib cage that will shut him down until next week, leaving his status for opening day uncertain.
The Yankees agreed to terms on a one-year major league contract with outfielder Brennan Boesch. The 27-year old Boesch hit .240 with 12 home runs and 54 RBI in 132 games with Detroit last season. In Glendale, Ariz., Dayan Viciedo hit a grand slam and a two-run double, Dewayne Wise and Jordan Danks also homered, and Gavin Floyd allowed one run over 5 1/3 innings in the White Sox’s 15-3 victory over the Cubs.