Puerto Rico defeated the USA 6-5 on Friday at the World Baseball Classic to punch their ticket to the semi-finals and keep their unbeaten streak intact.
Second baseman Javier Baez singled, stole three bases and scored a run for Puerto Rico, who finished runner-up in the 2013 World Baseball Classic.
Baez won a World Series with the Chicago Cubs just four months ago and said this is almost as enjoyable.
“It is really close to it. We are having fun and staying together,” he said. I love the Cubs and I love this team.”
Puerto Rico improved to 5-0 in the tournament as they built their early lead Friday on six singles in an explosive four-run first inning in front of a crowd of 32,000 at Petco Park.
A throwing error by American third baseman Nolan Arenado gave them two unearned runs and a 6-3 lead in the sixth.
The US and the Dominican Republic, both 1-1, will play Saturday night for the fourth and final berth in the semi-finals.
Two-time winner Japan and the Netherlands already have qualified.
The final round of the 16-team tournament begins Monday in Los Angeles with the championship game at Dodger Stadium two nights later.
Brandon Crawford hit a two-out, two-run triple off Edwin Diaz in the ninth before Josh Harrison struck out for the final out of the contest.
Buster Posey and Adam Jones blasted solo homers for the Americans.
Angel Pagan, Francisco Lindor and Carlos Correa began the parade of singles in the first inning off US starter Marcus Stroman. Carlos Beltran singled in Lindor and Yadier Molina followed with a single to drive in Correa.
Baez singled to load the bases before Eddie Rosario’s sacrifice fly to left field made it 4-0.
Posey’s homer in the fifth made it 4-2 and Jones’ second homer of the tournament in the sixth made it 4-3.
Puerto Rico’s bullpen had pitched nine scoreless innings overall in the second round before surrendering two runs to the US in the ninth.
“We kind of gave up and you can’t do that here. All the teams are really good,” said Baez.
Puerto Rico has quick turnaround with a game against Venezuela on Saturday.
The Americans will meet the Dominicans in Saturday’s final game of the second round, with left-handed pitcher Danny Duffy scheduled to face right-hander Ervin Santana.
Join GhanaStar.com to receive daily email alerts of breaking news in Ghana. GhanaStar.com is your source for all Ghana News. Get the latest Ghana news, breaking news, sports, politics, entertainment and more about Ghana, Africa and beyond.