Updated 9:29 p.m.: Cheers of "Dominicana! Dominicana!" rang out through the rain at AT&T Park all the way to the lively streets of Santo Domingo.
The Dominican Republic has its World Baseball Classic crown, at last.
Edwin Encarnacion hit a two-run double in the first inning that held up, and the Dominicans capped a dominant, unbeaten run through the WBC with a 3-0 win against Puerto Rico for the championship Tuesday night.
"Tomorrow will be a national holiday," said Moises Alou, the proud Dominican general manager. "It was a tremendous win."
Robinson Cano earned MVP honors, Erick Aybar added an RBI double to back winner Samuel Deduno, and the demonstrative Dominican righty threw his arms into the air in delight after watching a run-saving defensive gem by center fielder Alejandro De Aza in a tough fifth.
The Dominican fans — fanaticos, indeed — didn't let the Bay Area's wet weather keep them from dancing in the stands, waving flags and tooting horns. Flags became makeshift ponchos.
It was fitting, too, perhaps, considering the World Series champion Giants clinched the NL pennant against the Cardinals in a downpour on this very field last fall.
Some 50,000 more supporters gathered to watch on televisions inside and outside of Estadio Quisqueya in the Dominican capital city.
"There will not be anybody watching any other channel — soap opera, news, nothing," manager Tony Pena said before the game.
Now, the Dominicans get their long-awaited fiesta. A party they figured to have in 2009, when the Netherlands spoiled the plan by beating them twice for a stunning first-round exit.
After Fernando Rodney struck out Luis Figueroa to end it, the Dominicans rushed the mound — each player waving his own flag. Well, Rodney held up his lucky plantain that served him well for the second straight day. He won't eat this platano, which he said "is going to be my second trophy."
"This is my gold medal," he said. "It will be my black diamond, because it's changing color. I kept telling everybody to relax and not to worry about (the pressure)."
The Dominicans (8-0) won it in the city where countrymen Felipe, Jesus and the late Matty Alou made history in 1963 when they appeared in the same Giants outfield for several games. Moises Alou is the son of former San Francisco skipper, Felipe.
No matter their team, Caribbeans had so much to cheer in the championship of a tournament missing the star-studded American team yet again. The U.S. failed to reach the final for the third time in as many WBCs.
And Puerto Rico eliminated two-time reigning Classic champion Japan with a 3-1 victory Sunday night to make in all-Caribbean final.
This game gave new meaning to the idea of a Caribbean championship.
Deduno followed up a fine outing in a win against the Americans last Thursday with another strong performance that will send him back to the Minnesota Twins with some nice momentum.
Deduno struck out five in five scoreless innings, allowing two hits and walking three to finish with a 0.69 ERA for the tournament. And Rodney struck out two and finished for his seventh save as the bullpen closed out this special run with 25 2-3 scoreless innings. The relievers didn't allow a run after the fourth inning of their first-round victory against Puerto Rico on March 10 in San Juan.
"I'm excited and I'm thrilled," said reliever Santiago Casilla, who won the WBC title and World Series championship in all of about five months.
In the top of the fifth, the grounds crew scurried out to rake the mound after it became slippery in the rain and Deduno walked Alex Rios on five pitches to lead off the inning.
After Carlos Rivera flied out, De Aza ran down Andy Gonzalez's long fly to the gap in left-center and made a reaching snag at the warning track with his back to the infield.
Deduno then walked Jesus Feliciano. Pena paid the pitcher a mound visit but stuck with him, and Deduno struck out Angel Pagan swinging after falling behind 2-0. Deduno pumped his fists again as he charged off the mound and was surrounded by celebratory teammates.
In the bottom half, De Aza did it with his bat. He snapped an 0-for-12 stretch when he laid down a perfect bunt single toward third.
The Dominicans became the first unbeaten WBC champion, beating Team Puerto Rico for the third time in this Classic.
And now they earn the distinction of world champion, too — the first time in WBC history.
— Janie McCauley, Associated Press Baseball Writer
Tonight's championship game of the World Baseball Classic is certain to produce a dramatic image after the last out. One of the two national teams — either the Dominican Republic or Puerto Rico — will leave the field at AT Park in San Francisco with heads bowed. There might be tears.
How strange that will be, after both teams distinguished themselves throughout the Olympic-style tournament not only with great baseball, but great fun-loving, hip-swaying, plantain-waving (more on that coming right up) passion, as well.
Many Americans have ignored and even belittled the WBC for not being real baseball. Of course it didn't help that Team USA flamed out before the title game, as it has in all three World Baseball Classics.
But Teams D.R. and P.R. were simply on fire as they set very different courses to tonight's showdown. The Dominicans were dominant, and are one win away from becoming the first team in the WBC's short history to take the title without losing a game. Puerto Rico was all pluck, as it won three elimination games in five days, taking down baseball giants USA and Japan in the process.
And here they both are, full of momentum and fun.
The biggest goof goes to Dominican ace relief pitcher Fernando Rodney, whose sense of humor is as cockeyed as his baseball cap, which never sits straight on his head. Monday was Rodney's 36th birthday, and he celebrated by unveiling his "good luck platano," during introductions before a game against the Netherlands. He explained later that his family sent the fruit Dominicans love — and it talked to him.
"Platano said if you keep me close, you'll get the win. The plantain gave me luck."
Sure enough, there it was and there he was, whipping the plantain from his waistband and waving it during a fifth-inning rally. The Dominican batters, usually so good, were undisciplined early on — swinging at bad pitches (of which there weren't many by Netherlands' starter Diegomar Markwell).
But in that fifth, they showed the discipline that makes them such a feared lineup. Two straight doubles started an onslaught that ended with team D.R. ahead 4-1. That ended up being the final score.
Disciplined hitting ... or magic plantain?
Platano don't lie.
But Dominican manager Tony Pena sure smiles when he talks about the "incident."
"The thing is that you need to find a way. How [are] you going to lose the stress? How [are] you going to keep a whole group of players laughing and keeping loose," he says. "I got a surprise when I saw Rodney with a banana, a plantain. And I just laughed! Right in the middle of the game, this made everybody laugh. Game like this? You need to find a way to loosen up. And I'm glad that he did it."
Pena was also glad that star second baseman Robinson Cano "stepped forward" and challenged his flailing teammates to stop chasing pitches outside the strike zone, to reclaim the discipline that has made the Dominicans the most feared lineup in the WBC.
What Cano exhibited, Pena says, "will make him a good leader on any ballclub in the future."
Netherlands manager Hensley Meulens appeared to have quite a dilemma on his hands. His mother is "100 percent Dominican," and his father is "100 percent Dutch." So while Meulens technically could have claimed that half of him was happy with the outcome – he said he felt all pain after the game due to his Dutch side.
"I'm proud of our guys," Meulens said of his team that's a unique patchwork of players from the European mainland and the Dutch islands of Curacao and Aruba. "I thanked them for playing with a lot of heart, and we just got beat by a little better team today."
It was another good showing for a country that played its first international baseball game in 1934. With the World Baseball Classic, the Netherlands is moving in the right direction. In 2006, the Dutch team finished 11th; in 2009, it was seventh. This year, it made the Final Four.
The final teams standing play tonight. (The games are being broadcast by MLB.com and ESPN Deportes.) And while the party will end for one of them, it's a fact that the championship game — and this edition of the World Baseball Classic — will be a resounding victory for the Caribbean. Either way.