MIAMI // Venezuela advanced to the semi-finals of the World Baseball Classic with a 2-0 victory over Puerto Rico on Monday, while Cuba eliminated Mexico. Felix Hernandez struck out seven and the closer Francisco Rodriguez recorded the last four outs to take Venezuela into the final four. Rodriguez, dubbed "K-Rod" by fans, struck out Felipe Lopez with two runners on base and two outs in the eighth inning before pitching a perfect ninth.
The 22-year-old Hernandez, who pitches for the Seattle Mariners, picked up the win. "That's the biggest game I've ever pitched," a jubilant Hernandez said. "To pitch in these games, that's what I like. I'm just so proud to represent my country in this great tournament." It was the first loss of the event for Puerto Rico, who now face the United States in an elimination game on tonight. Ramon Hernandez blasted a seventh-inning homer for what initially looked like being the first instant replay review of a home run in the WBC.
Hernandez's drive cleared the wall and bounced back into play, and after originally ruling the play a triple, the umpiring crew got together and decided it was a home run. Crew chief Ed Rapuano said after the game that he attempted to use the replay but: "they couldn't get me the replay in the locker room on the replay board." Puerto Rico entered the contest having outscored opponents 26-2 over four games but could manage only five hits against the Venezuelan pitchers.
"This means a lot," Rodriguez said. "That's one of our goals, to reach the semi-finals, and of course to make it to the finals. It's a big deal for us." Carlos Guillen had an RBI single in the third inning for Venezuela, who failed to advance to the semis in 2006. In the day's other game, Frederich Cepeda drove in four runs to lead Cuba to a 7-4 victory over Mexico, eliminating the Mexicans from the tournament.
Cuba will play the loser of tonight's contest between Japan and South Korea. *Reuters