Alex Rios Leads Team Puerto Rico Over Team Japan To Clinch Spot In WBC Championship

By Matt Malecha
Alex Rios WBC
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

After being moved down in the lineup, Alex Rios has responded for Team Puerto Rico.

Going 2 for 4 with a two-run homerun, Rios helped Team Puerto Rico defeat two-time defending World Baseball Classic Champions, Team Japan, by a score of 3-1 in Sunday night’s semifinal game.

Starting the WBC just 3 for 22, Rios was able to halt his slump in a big way tonight. His eventual game winning homerun came off of Team Japan’s left-handed reliever, Atsushi Nohmi. With a man aboard in the top of the 7th, Nohmi hung a changeup, which Rios sent into the left field stands.

In his nine-year MLB career, Rios has never played in a playoff game. His current run in the WBC with Team Puerto Rico is the closest thing to postseason baseball that the outfielder has experienced.

Currently a member of the Chicago White Sox, Rios is a key member of the South Siders offense. After a very productive 2012 season, in which he set career highs in both HRs and RBI, Rios was projected to have a monster WBC. Although he has struggled offensively for most of the tournament, the 32-year-old right fielder picked the perfect moment to break his bad spell in tonight’s semifinal contest. I expect Rios to remain in the bottom of Puerto Rico, where he will once again look to produce for his country, and bring home a WBC Championship.

Although Puerto Rico wasn’t exactly a long-shot to win the WBC this year, they certainly have exceeded expectations. By beating Team USA earlier this week and taking down Team Japan late Sunday night, Puerto Rico is staking their claim as the world’s greatest on the baseball diamond.

With their upset win against Japan, Team Puerto Rico will move on to the WBC Championship. Rios and Puerto Rico will face the winner of Monday’s game between Team Netherlands and Team Dominican Republic. The Championship game will be played Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET.

Matt Malecha is a MLB writer for Follow him on Twitter @MattMalecha and add him to your network on Google

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