In true baseball fashion, the 2013 World Baseball Classic final will be a battle between David and Goliath, when the surprising squad from Puerto Rico takes on the loaded Dominican Republic at AT&T Park in San Francisco on Tuesday.
Puerto Rico punched its ticket to the championship game with a surprise win over two-time defending champion Japan in the semifinals on Sunday. After a day off to soak in the moment, it will be back to business for this team.
The Dominican Republic will look to make history by becoming the first team to go undefeated all the way through en route to winning its first WBC title.
This will be the third time Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic have met in this year's tournament. The Dominican Republic won the first two games by a combined score of 6-2 and have outhit the Puerto Rican team 18-10.
It took the Dominicans five innings to get the offense going against the Netherlands in the semifinals, but when it did, you could tell that nothing was going to stand in this team's way. A 4-1 win against the Netherlands has set up this latest rematch for all the marbles.
In anticipation of Tuesday's must-see matchup, here is all of the information you need to prepare you for the 2013 championship between P.R. and the D.R.
When: Tuesday, March 19 at 8 p.m. ET
Where: AT&T Park in San Francisco
Watch: MLB Network
Puerto Rico's path to the Final
|Pool C: def. Spain 3-0 (1-0)|
|Pool C: def. Venezuela 6-3 (2-0)|
|Pool C: loss vs. Dominican Republic 4-2 (2-1)|
|Pool 2: loss vs. United States 7-1 (2-2)|
|Pool 2: def. Italy 4-3 (3-2)|
|Pool 2: def. United States 4-3 (4-2)|
|Pool 2: loss vs. Dominican Republic 2-0 (4-3)|
|Semifinal Round: def. Japan 3-1 (5-3)|
Dominican Republic's path to the Final
|Pool C: def. Venezuela 9-3 (1-0)|
|Pool C: def. Spain 6-3 (2-0)|
|Pool C: def. Puerto Rico 4-2 (3-0)|
|Pool 2: def. Italy 5-4 (4-0)|
|Pool 2: def. United States 3-1 (5-0)|
|Pool 2: def. Puerto Rico 2-0 (6-0)|
|Semifinal Round: def. Netherlands 4-1 (7-0)|
Puerto Rico's Key Players
Angel Pagan, OF
Pagan has been on fire through eight games in the Classic. He is hitting a robust .367/.441/.500 in 30 at-bats. His 15 total bases are the sixth-most in the event, and he has also added three extra-base hits (two doubles, one triple).
Puerto Rico needs that table-setter at the top of the lineup, because this team doesn't have much depth to score a lot of runs. Pagan has been everything his team could have asked for, and then some.
Yadier Molina, C
If you watch the St. Louis Cardinals on a daily basis, you are spoiled by how great Molina is behind the plate. What makes an event like this so great is that casual fans who might not pay attention to the Cardinals all season get a closer look at why Molina is so revered in the sport.
Even if Molina were the worst hitter in the game, he would still be incredibly valuable because of what he adds behind the plate. Fortunately, Molina can more than hold his own with the bat even if he hasn't shown it in the World Baseball Classic.
Giancarlo Alvarado, SP
The reason Puerto Rico is in this game is because of its pitching. Alvarado will get the call in the biggest game of the WBC, being put in the unenviable position of trying to shut down the Dominican lineup.
Alvarado did run into some trouble in his last outing against Italy, cruising through the first four innings before allowing three runs (two earned) in giving up a bases-loaded three-run double to Anthony Rizzo.
If Alvarado has a bad inning against this powerful Dominican lineup, he will wish the only thing that happened to him was a three-run double.
Dominican Republic's Key Players
Robinson Cano, 2B
If they were to hand out an MVP award for the entire World Baseball Classic, it would be hard to argue with Cano getting it. He is tearing the cover off the ball right now, hitting .500 and driving in six runs for the Dominican Republic.
Even though the Dominican lineup is incredibly deep, Cano is the straw that stirs the drink. If you are able to stop him—which no one has really done so far—you have a shot to keep this offense down for at least a few innings.
Carlos Santana, C
Even if you keep Cano down, you have to deal with Santana later on. The Cleveland catcher has looked very strong, hitting two home runs and, more impressively, drawing eight walks in seven games.
Teams just haven't been able to keep Santana off base, which gives the Dominican lineup even more depth since he has been hitting seventh in the Classic. If your No. 7 hitter is getting on base at a .530 clip, you are going to score a lot of runs.
Samuel Deduno, SP
Even though the Dominicans have a deep bullpen that has been outstanding, everything gets set up by the starting pitching. Through seven games, the starters have allowed just seven earned runs (four of them by Edinson Volquez in one start against Italy).
Deduno has been particularly stingy, allowing just nine hits and two walks in eight innings of work with one earned run and 12 strikeouts. Puerto Rico doesn't boast a powerful lineup, so Deduno can settle in early to keep it off balance.
Pay attention to how Deduno does right out of the gate. He has never had great control of his pitches, leaving him susceptible to big innings if he can't find his spots. A hot start could be just what Puerto Rico needs to finally get over the hump.
As great as the story of Puerto Rico finally beating the Dominican Republic in the final would be, it is impossible to bet against the Dominicans, based on what we have seen from this team so far.
The Dominican lineup and bullpen is deep. They have so many different ways to beat you, while Puerto Rico needs dominant pitching to keep the game close. Let the celebration in the Dominican Republic begin.
Dominican Republic 5, Puerto Rico 2
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