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 night 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 like a kid at recess, then ran to catcher Yadier Molina to share a hug.
On Thursday, demonstrative Dominicans dominated the All-Star-laden U.S. lineup. The Americans endured a scoreless streak of 14 innings spanning the two defeats, and Figueroa limited them to two singles in six shutout innings.
Puerto Rico advanced for the first time to the semifinals, which begin Sunday in San Francisco. They'll play the Dominican Republic on Saturday in the final game in Miami, which will determine seedings for the championship round. Two-time defending champion Japan and the Netherlands round out the final four.
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