MIAMI — Once again, the United States could only watch as an opposing pitcher celebrated at the World Baseball Classic.
This time it was 38-year-old right-hander Nelson Figueroa, who became the pride of Puerto Rico on Friday when he led his team into the semifinals and eliminated the Americans 4-3.
After Figueroa threw his last pitch to end the sixth inning, he leaped off the mound with a hoot, then ran to catcher Yadier Molina to share a hug.
"We were supreme underdogs against that lineup," Figueroa said. "It was motivation to show them what kind of pitcher I was."
On Thursday, the Dominican Republic dominated the U.S. squad. The Americans endured a scoreless streak of 14 innings spanning the two defeats, and Figueroa limited them to two singles in six shutout innings.
The Americans have still not won the WBC or even reached the final in three tries.
"When you play double elimination, it's a crap shoot," manager Joe Torre said. "And Figueroa pitched his tail off."
J.C. Romero escaped a bases-loaded jam in the eighth and retired the final four batters for his first save. The last out triggered a pileup behind the mound as Puerto Rico advanced for the first time to the semifinals, which begin Sunday in San Francisco. It plays the Dominican Republic today to determine seedings for the championship round. Two-time defending champ Japan and the Netherlands round out the final four.
Figueroa allowed only a single by Brandon Phillips in the fourth and a single by Jimmy Rollins in the sixth.
The Rays' Ben Zobrist, who played third base for the injured David Wright, went 0-for-2 and drew a two-out, bases-loaded walk in the Americans' two-run eighth to cut the deficit to 4-3. But Eric Hosmer grounded out to second to end that threat and the Americans went 1-2-3 in the ninth.
Ailing Wright: Mets third baseman David Wright has a moderate muscle strain on his left side that could put him on the disabled list to start the season. He got an injection, will rejoin the team today and rest before starting up again.
Making the cut: Dr. Frank Jobe, who developed the elbow-ligament replacement procedure known as "Tommy John surgery" that has helped baseball players extend their careers, will be honored during Hall of Fame induction weekend July 27 for his impact on the sport. Former pitcher Tommy John will attend the ceremony. John was diagnosed with a torn MCL in his left elbow in 1974 when Jobe tried a procedure in which he removed a tendon from the forearm to repair the elbow.
Royals: Right-hander Wade Davis, who has not pitched since March 3 because of inflammation behind his throwing shoulder, threw three scoreless innings in a minor-league game, allowing one hit, striking out six and walking none. The former Ray is penciled in as the No. 4 starter. He said he felt fine after the outing but called the earlier setback "annoying."