[Scroll to 3:35 for the walk-off sacrifice fly]
LOS ANGELES — Blonds have more fun, and now they’ll have one more game to play.
In a game that featured a little bit of everything — two extra innings, new rules, spectacular defense, timely hitting, emotional outbursts, multiple replay reviews, long home runs and spectacular performances by Major League stars — one team eventually had to win to become the first entrant in the final of the 2017 World Baseball Classic.
It was Puerto Rico, which prevailed, 4-3, in the bottom of the 11th inning on Monday night at Dodger Stadium when Eddie Rosario’s sacrifice line drive to center field drove home Carlos Correa, sparking a celebration by first base and ending an epic Classic game that clocked in at 4 hours, 19 minutes, and will be talked about for quite some time in both countries and beyond.
Puerto Rico will now await the winner of the United States vs. Japan matchup set for Tuesday night at 9 ET, and it will play on Wednesday for what it hopes will be its first Classic championship in four attempts. You can watch all championship round games live on MLB.TV and MLB Network. In Wednesday’s final at 9 p.m. ET, Puerto Rico will be the home team vs. the U.S. should America advance, and if the P.R. meets Japan, the home-road teams will be determined by a coin flip.
The taut battle was deadlocked through 10 innings, and in the 11th, new rules for the Classic went into effect in which runners were placed on first and second base at the beginning of the frame. After Puerto Rico (and Seattle Mariners) closer Edwin Diaz got out of his jam with a double play to seal a dominant two-inning effort, Puerto Rico, which had Correa on second and Enrique Hernandez on first, greeted Netherlands reliever Loek Van Mil with a sacrifice bunt by Yadier Molina, prompting the Dutch to intentionally walk the next batter, Javier Baez. That loaded the bases for Rosario, whose line drive was deep enough to center that Jurickson Profar’s throw didn’t have a chance to nail Correa.
The game began with an epic first inning, a highlight-reel series of events marked by miscues, outward displays of emotion and two monstrous home runs. After Andrelton Simmons got on base by legging out an infield single and Xander Bogaerts was hit by a pitch by Puerto Rico starter Jorge Lopez, the first of two baserunning mistakes happened when Simmons was caught in a rundown by catcher Molina and tagged between second and third.
The next batter, Profar, singled to right field, and after a strong throw home by Rosario kept Bogaerts at third, Profar celebrated his hit by motioning to the Netherlands’ dugout while stepping casually back to first base. He did it for a few seconds too many, however. Molina astutely witnessed the moment of careless merriment, gunned Profar out at first base, and then, jumping animatedly in the air, turned to the pro-Puerto Rico crowd in the seats beyond the team’s dugout and goaded them to join the party.
That ruckus didn’t last long, however. The next batter, Wladimir Balentien, blasted a no-doubt two-run home run into the left-field bleachers, a 422-foot shot that was Balentien’s fourth of this World Baseball Classic. Balentien stoked even more emotion by flipping his bat demonstrably and pounding his chest as he began his trot.
But this wacky inning wasn’t close to done. Puerto Rico got the score tied at 2 in relatively quick order and in decidedly less confusing fashion. With one out, Francisco Lindor doubled off Netherlands starter Rick Van Den Hurk and Correa followed with a 441-foot homer into the pavilion in left-center, prompting the Puerto Rico team, led by flag-bearing Hernandez, into another on-field dance party.
Puerto Rico took the lead in the second inning on a solo home run by first baseman T.J. Rivera, but the Netherlands answered in the fifth, tying the score on an RBI double by Shawn Zarraga. Meanwhile, solid work by both bullpens kept the game close.