Perfect ending to Dominicans first WBC title

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SAN FRANCISCO, CA – MARCH 19: Nelson Cruz #17, Hanley Ramirez #13 and Edwin Encarnacion #10 of the Dominican Republic joke around prior to the Championship Round of the 2013 World Baseball Classic against Puerto Rico at AT&T Park on March 19, 2013 in San Francisco, California. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images/AFP

SAN FRANCISCO – Edwin Encarnacion belted a two-run double in the first and Samuel Deduno pitched five shutout innings as the Dominican Republic beat Puerto Rico 3-0 to claim their first World Baseball Classic title.

It was the eighth-straight victory for the star-studded Dominicans as they easily won the all-Caribbean clash, becoming the first team to go undefeated in the brief history of the World Baseball Classic.

“I can’t describe the feeling,” said shortstop Jose Reyes. “We did it for the whole country.”

Erick Aybar batted two-for-three with an RBI double in the fifth inning for the Dominican Republic, who were also the heavy favorites to win the last WBC event in 2009 but failed to get past the first round.

Reliever Fernando Rodney, who turned 36 on Monday, got the final out, getting Puerto Rico batter Luis Figueroa to swing at an 83 mph changeup for the strikeout. Rodney has now saved seven of the Dominicans’ eight wins.

The Dominicans then stormed the mound where they piled on Rodney and jumped for joy while fireworks lit the sky and confetti showered the field.

The game was played under soggy conditions as a steady rain began to fall in the fourth inning and continued throughout. But it didn’t dampen the festive atmosphere of the crowd of 35,703 at AT&T Park, who blew whistles, banged drums and screamed in support of their Latin heroes.

The start of the post-final news conference was delayed for several minutes while Reyes and Robinson Cano, who was named MVP of the event, took a call from Dominican President Danilo Medina.

“This ball club is about emotion,” said Dominican manager Tony Pena. “It is a unique group. We are going to enjoy every single moment of this because we don’t know if this group is going to be together again. I doubt it.”

Cano batted .469 overall with four doubles, two home runs and a tournament record 15 hits.

Dominican starting pitcher Deduno threw five innings, striking out five, and allowing no runs while walking three.

Deduno started quickly, retiring seven of the first eight batters he faced. He gave up a single to the first batter, Angel Pagan, but then settled in nicely, posting four strikeouts in the first two innings.

With the Dominicans leading 2-0 in top of the fifth and two runners on base and two out, Deduno got out of a jam by striking out Pagan with an 81 mph curveball.

The stadium grounds crew had to make frequent trips to pitcher’s mound and home plate to put down fresh soil so the players would not slip on the wet ground.

Puerto Rico starter Giancarlo Alvarado struggled from the outset, and lasted just one inning.

Alvarado surrendered two runs on two hits and walked one before he was pulled by manager Edwin Rodriguez. A career minor leaguer, Alvarado, who is one of Puerto Rico’s returning players from the 2009 WBC team, spent the last three seasons in Japan.

“I noticed he (Alvarado) was in trouble and that is why I changed him quickly,” Rodriguez said.

Puerto Rico, who finished with five wins and four losses, had won their last three elimination games in a row but couldn’t generate any offence against Deduno and his stingy bullpen of Octavio Dotel, Pedro Strop, Santiago Casilla and Rodney.

“We are disappointed,” Rodriguez said. “We had a chance to score in the first inning and we didn’t and that would have made it a different ballgame.”

Encarnacion blasted a two-run RBI double off Alvarado in the first to give the Dominicans a 2-0 lead.

Lead-off batter Reyes started it for the Dominicans with a double to right field. Erick Aybar then hit a sacrifice bunt to move Reyes to third and Alvarado walked slugger Cano. That set the stage for Encarnacion’s double which scored Reyes and Cano.

Four innings later Aybar capped the scoring by hitting a two-out double to right field to score Alejandro De Aza to make it 3-0.

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