- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 17, 2009

MIAMI (AP) - Ramon Hernandez and his Venezuela teammates are headed to the semifinals of the World Baseball Classic.

Hernandez was correctly awarded a home run Monday night following a bungled replay review, and Venezuela delighted a cacophonous crowd of 25,599 by beating Puerto Rico 2-0 to secure a spot in the final four.

Puerto Rico lost for the first time in five WBC games and will face the United States on Tuesday night, with the loser eliminated and the winner advancing to the semifinals this weekend in Los Angeles. The game offers Team USA a chance to avenge an 11-1 loss to Puerto Rico on Saturday that triggered the mercy rule, ending the rout in the seventh inning.

Felix Hernandez and four relievers combined on a five-hitter and stranded 10 runners against Puerto Rico, which came into the game batting .341. Francisco Rodriguez retired all four batters he faced for his third save in the tournament.

Carlos Guillen singled home the first run in the third, and Ramon Hernandez doubled the margin in the seventh _ but only after much debate and a 10-minute delay.

Second-base umpire Mark Wegner ruled Hernandez’s long drive to left-center in play when the ball ricocheted back onto the field, and he sprinted to third base for an apparent leadoff triple. Replays clearly showed the ball clearing the scoreboard and bouncing off retracted bleachers.

As the Venezuelans protested the call, the umpires conferred, with help from a translator. Three umps then went under the stands for what was supposed to be the WBC’s first replay review, which is permitted on home run calls.

The crew returned to the field and ruled the hit a homer, and Hernandez jogged across the plate as fans roared.

But after the game, crew chief Ed Rapuano revealed that the umpires were unable to see the replay on their monitor because the feed from New York wasn’t working. So they came to a consensus on their own and changed the call. Rapuano said third base umpire Hitoshi Watarida was sure he saw the ball clear the fence.

Another reversed call hurt Puerto Rico’s chances of scoring in the second inning. With Alex Rios on first and none out, Ivan Rodriguez hit a grounder that caromed off Rios’ leg as he began to slide into second base. Rios was initially ruled safe, but after the umpires conferred they correctly called him out.

From the first pitch, the pro-Venezuelan crowd danced and sang, blew horns and whistles, chanted and waved flags and cheered with every favorable development. With the mood festive, booing of Magglio Ordonez was less vociferous than in the team’s game Saturday.

Many Venezuelans dislike the outfielder because he supports their country’s president, Hugo Chavez, and Ordonez drew a mix of cheers and jeers each time he stepped to the plate. He went 0-for-4 and is batting .150 (3-for-20) in the tournament.

The Puerto Ricans drew six walks but stranded five runners in scoring position and two at third. In the eighth they had runners at first and second when Francisco Rodriguez entered with a 2-1 count on Felipe Lopez.

Rodriguez struck him out, then stomped to the dugout in jubilation, his arms outstretched as he looked to the sky and screamed.

Ivan Rodriguez went 1-for-4 in the wake of reports he’s closing in on a contract with the Houston Astros. His average in the tournament fell to .526 (10-for-19).

Felix Hernandez (2-0) allowed four hits and four walks in 4 2-3 innings but struck out seven. He left after reaching the tournament’s 85-pitch limit and has yet to allow a run in the WBC in 8 2-3 innings over two games.

Puerto Rico starter Ian Snell (0-1) pitched four innings, allowing five hits and two walks but only one run. It came in the third when Bobby Abreu walked, stole second and came home on Guillen’s two-out single.

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