Eyes on Classic prize, PR prepares for DR

All-around performance spurs confident Puerto Rico to Pool D sweep

Eyes on Classic prize, PR prepares for DR

GUADALAJARA, Mexico -- Team Puerto Rico strutted into the city with lots of swagger and a World Baseball Classic championship on its mind.

Boasting an infield with Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor and Javier Baez and a roster full of proven veterans like Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina, it was easy to see why the island team liked its chances against Venezuela, Italy and Mexico at Estadio de Beisbol Charros de Jalisco this week.

The goal remains the same. It's time for a new city.

On Sunday, Puerto Rico defeated Italy, 9-3, to complete Pool D play with a 3-0 record to advance to the next round -- Pool F -- in San Diego. Puerto Rico will face the undefeated Dominican Republic, the winner of Pool C, on Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET at Petco Park in the first game of Pool F.

In 2013, the Dominican Republic defeated Puerto Rico, 3-0, in the Classic championship game in San Francisco.

"We have to face the best teams, and definitely Dominican is one of them," Puerto Rico manager Edwin Rodriguez said. "We're ready for them, and I'm sure they also have been watching us, too, in the same way we've been watching them. It's going to be a great game."

Correa's three-run home run

Puerto Rico's numbers speak for themselves. Correa hit two home runs and drove in five, while Lindor went deep twice and drove in four. Baez hit a home run and drove in five. The veterans also got into the action. Beltran had five hits and four RBIs. Molina hit a homer, scored three times and drove in three runs in two games. The bottom of the lineup -- a group that included Mike Aviles, Enrique Hernandez, Roberto Perez, Edwin Rosario, Reymond Fuentes and T.J. Rivera -- also pitched in.

"From the beginning, from before we started practicing, once we started getting together and knew who the guys on the roster were, there wasn't a doubt that we could get past this first round because our goal is to get to the finals, get to L.A. and win it all," Hernandez said. "This is WBC, so every game means the same to us. There's no small opponent to us, and we take every game as if it's the same."

Beltran's RBI double

It was Seth Lugo, who was born and raised in Louisiana and visited Puerto Rico for the first time last month, who set the pace for the Puerto Rican team in their first game of the round. Guided by Molina, Lugo shut down Venezuela for 5 1/3 scoreless innings in the 11-0 mercy-rule victory after seven innings. Along the way, he showed the critics that Puerto Rico's pitching staff could match up and that the team's perceived weakness was really not a weakness at all.

Puerto Rico used five pitchers in the 9-4 victory against Mexico on Saturday and starter Jose Berrios gave up three runs on two hits in five solid innings Sunday.

Berrios fans six vs. Italy

"Every game, the offense was there, and the pitching was there, the defense was there," Rodriguez said. "They are very committed to what we're trying to do here, and they showed that on the field. So we are very confident moving forward."

The World Baseball Classic runs through March 22. In the U.S., games air live exclusively in English on MLB Network and on an authenticated basis via MLBNetwork.com/watch, while ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN provide the exclusive Spanish-language coverage. MLB.TV Premium subscribers in the U.S. have access to watch every tournament game live on any of the streaming service's 400-plus supported devices. The tournament is being distributed internationally across all forms of television, internet, mobile and radio in territories excluding the U.S., Puerto Rico and Japan. Get tickets for games at Marlins Park, Tokyo Dome, Estadio Charros de Jalisco in Mexico, Petco Park, as well as the Championship Round at Dodger Stadium, while complete coverage -- including schedules, video, stats and gear -- is available at WorldBaseballClassic.com.

"We have a lot of pride, and what we showed is what we're going to bring to the table," Hernandez said. "We're going to bring a lot of energy, a lot of passion, and we're going to play hard from the first pitch to the last pitch of the game. What you saw here is what you can expect from us."

Jesse Sanchez, who has been writing for MLB.com since 2001, is a national reporter based in Phoenix. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.