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 Nelson Figueroa, who became the pride of Puerto Rico on Friday 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.
Puerto Rico’s Angel Pagan celebrates with Alex Rios after scoring in the first inning of a 4-3 win over the United States on Friday.
"We were supreme underdogs against that lineup," said Figueroa, who is 20-35 with six major league teams. "It was motivation to show them what kind of pitcher I was."
On Thursday, the demonstrative Dominican Republic beat the All-Star-laden U.S. squad. The Americans endured a scoreless streak of 14 innings spanning the two defeats, and Figueroa limited them to two singles in six shutout innings.
"Figueroa pitched his tail off to-night," U.S. manager Joe Torre said.
WORLD BASEBALL CLASSIC
Puerto Rico 4, United States 3
Puerto Rico vs. Dominican Republic,
* * *
At San Francisco
Puerto Rico or Dominican Republic vs. Japan, 3 p.m.
Netherlands vs. Puerto Rico or Dominican Republic, 3 p.m.
J.C. Romero escaped a bases-loaded jam in the eighth and retired the final four batters. The last out triggered a pileup of Puerto Ricans behind the mound.
The Puerto Ricans scored all of their runs with two outs. Mike Aviles had an RBI single in the first. In the sixth, Carlos Rivera drew a bases-loaded walk and Andy Gonzalez doubled home two runs.
Shane Victorino, a St. Anthony High School alumnus, went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts as the designated hitter for the U.S.