SAN FRANCISCO – Tony Pena wanted his team to have fun, and boy did they take that to heart. Every play was full of emotion. Each big strikeout was accompanied by a celebration near the mound, each hit by an eruption in the dugout, and each run by a stream of deliriously happy Dominicans, and closer Fernando Rodney’s magic plantain, spilling out of the dugout.
And it all ended with the entire team joining Rodney in his customary postgame celebration on the mound and firing imaginary arrows all the way back to the Dominican Republic.
Edwin Encarnacion drove in a pair of runs and a dominant bullpen made one last stand to help the Dominican Republic capture the 2013 World Baseball Classic title with a 3-0 victory over Puerto Rico on a damp Tuesday night at AT&T Park.
“I can’t even describe this feeling right now,” said shortstop Jose Reyes. “Like I said before, right now, in the Dominican Republic, they were waiting for this moment so bad, and we did it for the whole Dominican Republic.”
The Dominicans won the title for the first time and at 8-0 are the first team to finish the WBC with a perfect record. Japan had won the previous two tournaments.
“The whole world will remember this,” Rodney said.
Winning the WBC should help ease the sting of a semifinal exit in 2006 and the disappointment of not even getting out of the second round in 2009.
“There was a press conference in the Dominican Republic, I said that was enough,” Dominican manager Tony Pena said. “In the Dominican Republic, we are one of the countries which produces the greatest number of baseball players. It was just enough. I had had enough of that shame of not having a trophy like this.
“And thank God this group of men was able to accomplish what we wanted, which is to put our country at the top in terms of baseball. And I think this trophy, this trophy says it all for the Dominican Republic.”
New York Yankees star infielder Robinson Cano was walked intentionally in the first inning and finished 0-for-3 in the final. He still took home MVP honors for the tournament on the strength of a 15-for-32 performance at the plate that included a pair of home runs and six RBIs in eight games.
“This is something that you are never going to get done by yourself,” Cano said. “So I want to thank the guys, my teammates, the manager, also the Dominican team, for giving me that opportunity to be here with all these guys.”
Dominican starter Samuel Deduno struck out five and walked three over five scoreless innings to earn the win.
Deduno struggled with his control and walked two batters as the rain began to fall harder in the fifth with the Dominicans ahead 2-0. With two outs, runners on first and second, and hometown favorite Angel Pagan, of the San Francisco Giants, at the plate, Pena was ready to go to his bullpen. When the manager reached the mound, Deduno pleaded for a chance to face Pagan, to which Pena responded, “You want it? You got it.”
Deduno struck out Pagan to end the inning and preserve the lead, launching into an emphatic celebration afterward.
“He made me change my mind,” Pena said. “And it’s something I never do. Because if this guy would have got a hit, I would have kicked him in the rear end. I would have kicked myself.”
Rodney worked the ninth for his seventh save of the WBC, and four relievers combined to throw three scoreless innings, including Pedro Strop who inherited men on first and second with no outs in the seventh. Strop struck out the next two batters and induced a popup into foul territory that was caught by a stumbling Miguel Tejada to escape the jam.
The Dominican bullpen ended the WBC with a 24⅔ scoreless innings streak.
Encarnacion got the Dominicans off to a fast start with a two-run double in the first, and Erik Aybar made Puerto Rico pay for leaving the lead runner on base after a missed double play with an RBI double in the fifth.
Reyes was 2-for-4 with a double and a triple, and Aybar finished 2-for-3. Aybar, Encarnacion and Nelson Cruz also hit doubles for the Dominicans. The Puerto Ricans managed only singles from Pagan, Mike Aviles and Jesus Feliciano.
Puerto Rico starter Giancarlo Alvarado allowed two runs on two hits in an inning of work and was charged with the loss.
“Definitely I was disappointed,” Puerto Rico manager Edwin Rodriguez said. “We were counting on Giancarlo Alvarado, and of course, he did a great job. But facing that kind of lineup, it was very tough for him to get his pitches going.”
With the WBC over, players will now return to their various spring training locales to prepare for the upcoming season.
That, however, can wait.
“Tonight we’re going to celebrate,” Cano said. “Tomorrow, we’re going to celebrate. And Thursday, we will go back to spring training.”
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5