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US Advances to Baseball Classic Semifinals


The United States had edged Puerto Rico to advance to the semifinals of the World Baseball Classic.

After trailing most of the game, Team USA needed strong hitting and some luck in the bottom of the ninth inning to overcome a two-run deficit against Puerto Rico. The United States got a break when relief pitcher Fernando Cabrera walked a batter with the bases loaded, allowing one run to score. Then third baseman David Wright came to the plate and looped a single into the right-field corner, allowing two runs to score and ending the game with a score of 6-5.

Wright's teammates rushed the field to celebrate the win, which marks the first time Team USA advances to the semifinals of the World Baseball Classic. The United States was eliminated in the second round of the tournament, in 2006, when Japan seized the title.

After the game, Wright said he fought off nervous excitement as he made the final hit.

"So, I just tried to take a deep breath, get a pitch I could handle," Wright said. "If we win great, but the goal was to just go up there and drive in that tying run."

Manager Davey Johnson says he was eager to face Puerto Rico again after losing to the team, 11-1, Sunday. That loss was an embarrassment to the U.S. squad and forced it to play an elimination game against the Netherlands, Sunday.

Johnson says his team is improving steadily, as the tournament continues.

"These guys have been a little bit behind every one we played, making adjustments, battling," Johnson said. "It is only going to get better for us as it goes on."

The United States faces Venezuela, Wednesday, to determine the seeding for the semifinals, which open Saturday in Los Angeles.

Meantime, play continued in San Diego, where Japan, Cuba and Korea are battling for the top-two spots in Pool One. Monday, Cuba eliminated Mexico from the tournament, in a 7-4 game. To advance, Cuba must win again, Wednesday, when it plays the final elimination game of the round.

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