MLB.com - Puerto Rico will have a chance to win its first World Baseball Classic title at AT&T Park on Tuesday, two days after it beat two-time champion Japan, 3-1, in a semifinal matchup in San Francisco.
Puerto Rico will play the winner of Monday's second semifinal between the Dominican Republic and the Kingdom of the Netherlands. If the Dutch beat the Dominicans, Puerto Rico will be the home team, but if the Dominican Republic wins, it will be the home team against Puerto Rico -- a result of the teams' winning percentages in the tournament.
"You know what? Anything can happen," said Puerto Rican outfielder Alex Rios. "We're trying to take advantage of all the opportunities that we have to [score] some runs, to do everything we can. And there are no small opponents, no large opponents."
Manager Edwin Rodriguez's Puerto Rico squad is 5-3 in the Classic with two losses to the Dominican Republic, which remains unbeaten entering Monday's semifinal. The first loss came in Pool C play in San Juan, Puerto Rico, while the second determined seeding for the Championship Round out of Pool 2 in Miami.
The teams met Saturday, when the Dominicans earned a 2-0 victory, forcing Puerto Rico to make a quick turnaround after a cross-country flight to San Francisco and play Japan on Sunday, while the Dominican Republic rested in advance of its meeting with the Dutch.
The winner of Monday's matchup will have short rest for the final, though, while Puerto Rico can take Monday off after playing on three consecutive days.
"We're talking about advantages, disadvantages. Well, you can't really assure anything in this kind of a championship," Rodriguez said. "Tomorrow, we could be relaxed, maybe watching the game, but I don't think that there's going to be any kind of analysis or report."
Puerto Rico has met the Kingdom of the Netherlands three times before in tournament play -- twice in Pool D of the 2009 Classic and once in Pool C in '06 -- and won each matchup by a combined score of 16-4. While Puerto Rico did not see them play live yet in this tournament, Rodriguez said his club has enough knowledge of the Dutch to be prepared for a matchup with either team in the final.