MIAMI -- Manny Machado didn't mince words. Until the quirky start-an-inning-with-runners-on-base rule kicked in, the powerful Dominican Republic was on the brink of the biggest upset in World Baseball Classic history.Colombia doesn't have a regular who will be on a Major League roster on Opening Day yet was in position
MIAMI -- Manny Machado didn't mince words. Until the quirky start-an-inning-with-runners-on-base rule kicked in, the powerful Dominican Republic was on the brink of the biggest upset in World Baseball Classic history.
Colombia doesn't have a regular who will be on a Major League roster on Opening Day yet was in position to beat the Dominicans, which would have sent it to San Diego as the first-place team in Pool C. If that happened, the Dominican Republic team, with its fanatical fan base, was looking at the possibility of a tiebreaker game Monday against Team USA for the second spot.
"We got lucky there at the end," Machado said. "We got lucky a little bit, when we needed to be."
:: 2017 World Baseball Classic ::
He's right. The Dominican Republic was rescued by Jose Bautista's throw and Welington Castillo's superb tag to cut down Colombia pinch-runner Oscar Mercado at home plate in the ninth inning.
That's what allowed the Dominicans to extend the game to the 11th inning, where the stunningly solid Colombians cracked after playing 38 innings of high-level baseball. The defending champ Dominican Republic has won 11 consecutive games in the Classic.
"We were 90 feet from surprising the world, from shocking the Dominicans," Colombia manager Luis Urueta said after seven-run 11th ended the Dominicans' 10-3 victory. "But it is a satisfaction ... there are no words to describe it. We did not win, but we won a lot inside. We won a lot of people's respect, and we'll go on."
Colombia, which reached the Classic by going 3-0 in a round-robin qualifier last year in Panama, was one timely hit away from beating the United States in its first game, beat Canada in its second game and would have been 3-0 and on its way to Petco Park if Bautista's throw had been off target.
It's no wonder two Colombian players were ejected after umpire Tripp Gibson III's out call at the plate, which replays confirmed. The disappointment of this near-miss won't go away any time soon.
Nor will the pride of having represented their country so well.
Jose Quintana and Julio Teheran will carry that back to the White Sox and Braves, respectively, and everyone on the team -- including brothers Donovan Solano and Jhonatan Solano -- will have a lifetime of stories about the big one that got away.
"The leadership among the guys, the Solano brothers, Teheran, Quintana, all the words that were said a few minutes ago, I had tears," said Urueta, a former Minor League infielder who has been with the Arizona Diamondbacks organization since 2007. "I got a little emotional, because after the game, life goes on and your family goes on. What's coming for them is satisfaction and happiness for what happened here."
A line-drive homer by Phillies prospect Jorge Alfaro off Fernando Rodney tied the score 3-3 in the eighth inning, and the Colombians threatened against Mets setup man Hansel Robles in the ninth.
With men on first and third after Jonathan Villar threw high to first on what should have been a double play, Colombia had a great chance with one out. Reynaldo Rodriguez hit a fly to medium left field, and there was no doubt third-base coach Neder Horta was going to send Mercado, a second-round pick of the Cardinals in 2013 who stole 50 bases in the Midwest League in 2015.
Mercado mistakenly took a few steps down the line and had to hurry back to touch the base before heading home. That may have made a difference as the ball beat him to Castillo by a whisker. The veteran catcher, now with the Orioles, made the play of his career to handle the one-hop throw and block Mercado off the plate.
"Oh, the poise of that young man," said Tony Pena, the longtime catcher who manages the Dominican Republic. "When the ball got to home, it went over the runner, and Welington struggled and held onto the ball. That was the play of the game."
• Tag team: Castillo, Segura cut down runner
As in the Sunday morning game in Tokyo between Japan and the Netherlands, the game was decided in the 11th using the international rule that allows innings to start with runners on base -- sort of like a college football overtime.
After the Dominicans pounded three Colombia pitchers for seven runs on seven hits (the biggest of which was Jean Segura's three-run double), Pena called in his closer, Jeurys Familia to get the last three outs.
Lots of people grumbled about the rule, which is being used in a Major League-sanctioned event for the first time at the Classic, but not the Dominicans.
"It worked for us today," Robinson Cano said. "I don't mind it. It's the same for both teams."
The talent level sure wasn't the same, but you couldn't tell for 10 innings. Viva, Colombia.
Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com.