Team USA eliminated from WBC
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MIAMI -- The party's over for Team USA.
Annoyed by the exuberant celebrations of the Dominican Republic in Thursday night's loss, the Americans were treated to even more chest-thumping and fist-pumping by Puerto Rico on Friday night.
Now they don't have to watch it anymore.
That's because Brooklyn native Nelson Figueroa, a former Met, pitched six scoreless innings and the U.S. team, missing David Wright -- its "Captain America" -- looked lifeless until late in a 4-3 loss that bounced them from the World Baseball Classic.
"It definitely affected us," Team USA starter Ryan Vogelsong said of Wright's absence. "It's hard to replace somebody like that."
With Wright back in New York for more tests on his injured rib cage, U.S. hitting coach Dale Murphy brought a Captain America cap to Marlins Park for Friday night's elimination game and hung it on a dugout rail. The inspiration got the Americans only so far, as their eighth-inning rally fizzled.
Ryan Braun cut Puerto Rico's lead to 4-2 with a one-out double and Team USA loaded the bases, but Giancarlo Stanton popped up to shallow left, and the only thing Team USA could squeeze out was Ben Zobrist's run-scoring walk. J.C. Romero then got Eric Hosmer on a groundout to kill the threat.
"They did their job; we didn't," Brandon Phillips said. "What more can I really say? I wish them the best of luck. I've just got to go back to Goodyear [Ariz.], which I don't want to go back to. I wanted to go to San Francisco so bad."
Figueroa allowed only two singles and did not permit a runner to reach second base. The United States already trailed 4-0 by the time Joe Mauer ripped a one-out triple in the seventh -- only the second extra-base hit for the Americans in 22 innings. Stanton followed with a single that ended their scoreless streak at 14 innings.
"I don't think surprise is necessarily the right word," Braun said of Team USA's inept offensive effort against a group of pitchers who were hardly elite. "Maybe disappointed. Certainly we expected to score more runs than we did. In baseball, and in a small sample size, anything can happen and does happen."
In what likely was his last game in uniform, Joe Torre finished with a 3-3 record in the WBC as Team USA failed to reach the semifinals for the second time in three of these tournaments.
"The only thing I can say is this has been one of the most memorable experiences of my career," Torre said. "I'm a little emotional, but I guess this has been much more than I expected. As far as when you play these double-elimination [tournaments], it's a crapshoot."
Puerto Rico received an RBI single by Yadier Molina in the first inning, then scored three runs in the sixth, including Andy Gonzalez's two-run double. Gonzalez is a career .182 hitter in 91 games in the majors and has not played at that level since 2009 with the Marlins.
"I think that sends a perfect message -- names don't win ballgames," said Angel Pagan, who scored Puerto Rico's opening run. "It's whoever plays the best baseball. I think we showed that last year in San Francisco. We didn't have the best team on paper, but we knew how to play the game."
Coming in, Team USA was upset with the Dominicans for their celebratory gusto in Thursday night's win. From Samuel Deduno strutting off the mound with his arms raised like Rocky to the crowd-inciting antics on the basepaths, the U.S. team didn't think the on-field partying was as charming as everyone else did.
"How I was raised, I wouldn't do some of those things," said Willie Bloomquist, who took over at third base for the departed Wright. "I don't think my dad would've let me play the next day if I had done that growing up. Not to say whether that's right or wrong -- it's just a matter of your view on how you respect the game and the people you're playing against."
For Team USA, it's no longer something to worry about.