That headline came later than expected, which is progress enough for a country that’s produced one major leaguer in the last half-century.
Italy lost 4-3 to Puerto Rico in Miami on Wednesday night, ending its Cinderella run in the World Baseball Championship. Dodgers infielder Nick Punto went 1 for 4 and scored Italy’s second run in a three-run fifth inning for Italy, which upset both Mexico and Canada in pool play.
Down 3-0, Puerto Rico pounced on Italy’s bullpen — just as the Dominican Republic did a night earlier — to win the game in comeback fashion.
Punto is expected back in Arizona to resume his spring training with the Dodgers. He sent the following tweet Wednesday night:
Italy, the Cinderella team of the World Baseball Classic, almost did it again.
The Dominican Republic trailed Italy 4-0 in the second-round opener for both teams Tuesday, before clawing back to win 5-4 in Miami. Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez‘s sacrifice fly tied the game 4-4 in the seventh inning and Nelson Cruz‘s RBI single sealed the Italians’ fate. Ramirez finished 1 for 2 with a walk and a single in four plate appearances.
Ramirez played the entire game at third base, with Jose Reyes playing shortstop and Erick Aybar DHing.
Dodgers utilityman Nick Punto reached base in three out of his four plate appearances, scoring one run and driving in another.
Ronald Belisario, whose Venezuelan team was eliminated from the tournament over the weekend, arrived in the Dodgers’ clubhouse Tuesday afternoon.
Luis Cruz said Monday that he “lost it.” Over and over and over again.
But what, exactly, did he lose when he induced a brawl in the WBC game between Canada and Mexico on Saturday? Did he lose the formula for “Team Quality Balance”? Here it is again:
To fit that formula on the back of his hand, Cruz and the rest of the participants in the World Baseball Classic would have to write fairly small. It’s an important formula, the one that determines which of three teams tied with identical records, and no head-to-head tie-breaking games, advances out of pool play into the second round of the tournament.
A benches-clearing brawl at today’s World Baseball Classic game between Mexico and Canada appeared to begin when Dodgers third baseman Luis Cruz signaled for a hit batter.
Don Mattingly has openly joked about getting Nick Punto back in camp next week. He didn’t think Team Italy had a long future in the World Baseball Classic. He wasn’t alone.
On a day off for Hanley Ramirez and Ronald Belisario, the other three Dodgers in the WBC — Luis Cruz, Adrian Gonzalez and Punto — were busy pulling off upsets. Italy beat Canada, 14-4, and Mexico stunned the United States 5-2.
Punto went 2 for 4 with a double and scored twice. Gonzalez homered and drove in three runs and Cruz put Mexico up 5-1 with a sacrifice fly off Glen Perkins in the fifth inning. As Ice Cube once said, “it was a good day.”
Unless you’re the U.S., that is. The Americans play the Italians today and momentum is not in their direction. Italy beat Mexico on Thursday and can eliminate the U.S. from advancing to the semifinals with a win.
Some more links for a Saturday: