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  • José Luis Villegas / jvillegas@sacbee.com

    Jose Reyes, left, and Nelson Cruz celebrate the Dominican Republic's World Baseball Classic title with the championship trophy.

  • José Luis Villegas / jvillegas@sacbee.com

    Jose Reyes reacts after his leadoff double in the first inning for the Dominican Republic. Reyes went 2 for 4 and scored a run.

  • José Luis Villegas / jvillegas@sacbee.com

    Robinson Cano savors his championship medal. He was voted the World Baseball Classic MVP after going 15 for 32.

Dominican Republic beats Puerto Rico for WBC title

Published: Wednesday, Mar. 20, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Wednesday, Mar. 20, 2013 - 7:46 am

SAN FRANCISCO – The rain falling at AT&T Park since the third inning had subsided, replaced by confetti that settled around the feet of Moises Alou.

Alou, the longtime major leaguer and general manager of the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic, surveyed the celebration around him and longed for those feet to be somewhere else.

"I wish I could be in the Dominican right now," said Alou, a gold medal draped around his neck. "I know the country's rocking."

The Dominican Republic finished its romp through the WBC with a 3-0 victory over Puerto Rico in the championship game Tuesday night. Hoisting the WBC trophy for the first time, the Dominicans became the first team to win the tournament without losing, going 8-0.

Closer Fernando Rodney of the Tampa Bay Rays, the bill of his cap pulled rakishly to the left, struck out Puerto Rico's Luis Figueroa for the final out to bring the Dominicans pouring onto the field into a mob near the mound.

In a sign of the respect between the neighboring countries, who both reached the final for the first time, the teams met along the first-base line to exchange handshakes and hugs. Then, unfurling their country's flag, the Dominicans ran toward the third-base dugout and their fans, a group of whom had banged drums and blown horns throughout the game on a wet and chilly night.

Having produced 472 major leaguers – including its entire starting lineup Tuesday – the Dominican Republic has sent more foreign-born players to Major League Baseball than any other country. Alou, who played two seasons with the Giants and whose father, Felipe, played and managed in San Francisco, said he would liken the impact back home to that of Felix Sanchez twice winning Olympic gold in the 400-meter hurdles.

"But the Dominican is baseball," Alou said. "Everybody breathes, eats baseball. So it has to be right on top."

Especially, Alou said, after the Dominicans' stunning first-round exit in the 2009 WBC at the hands of the Netherlands – a loss avenged in Monday's semifinals.

"I know the country – they had that in their mind," he said. "And now to go all the way and to win those two games and to win undefeated – that's something this country's going to enjoy for a long time."

As they had all tournament, the Dominicans relied on strong pitching in the final. Starter Samuel Deduno, a right-hander who made 15 starts last season for the Minnesota Twins, allowed two singles in five scoreless innings before giving way to the team's loaded bullpen.

Four relievers combined to strand four runners over the final four innings, including the Giants' Santiago Casilla, who pitched a scoreless eighth. The Dominican staff allowed 14 runs in its eight games. Its bullpen closed the tournament on a run of 25 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings.

"Last year we (the Giants) win the World Series, and now … " Casilla said on the field after the game. "I feel so happy."

Puerto Rico finished the tournament 5-4, with three losses to the Dominicans. Afterward, they stayed on the field while the champions received their medals, acknowledging their own fans in a lively announced crowd of 35,703.

Tim Brosnan, MLB executive vice president of business, touted the gesture as a positive of the WBC.

"Who stays for the other guys to get their medals?" said Brosnan, who also cited games during this year's tournament that drew record TV ratings in Puerto Rico, Taiwan and Japan, while declaring the WBC an "over-the-top success."

Robinson Cano, who went 15 for 32 to set a record for hits in a WBC, was voted MVP of the tournament. Afterward, Cano was asked what it would be like to go from winning the tournament to rejoining the New York Yankees in spring training.

"I'll tell you one thing," Cano said. "Tonight, we're going to celebrate. Tomorrow, we're going to celebrate. And Thursday, we'll worry about spring training."

Call The Bee's Matt Kawahara, (916) 321-1015. Read his Bay Area Baseball blog at blogs.sacbee.com/bay-area-baseball/. Follow him on Twitter @matthewkawahara.

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Read more articles by Matt Kawahara



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