3/18/2013 2:11 A.M. ET
Despite early injury exit, Santiago nets win for PR
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- Puerto Rico right-hander Mario Santiago left Sunday night's World Baseball Classic semifinal victory over Japan with tightness in his right forearm.
No matter. His 4 1/3 brilliant innings of scoreless two-hit ball sent Puerto Rico on to a stunning 3-1 win, unseating the two-time defending Classic champion Japanese.
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"This game was big for me and big for my family," Santiago said on the field after he was credited with the win. "Everybody in Puerto Rico is happy. Nobody was thinking that we were going to be here. This game was big for everyone."
For Puerto Rico, it's on to the championship game on Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on MLB Network and ESPN Deportes against the winner of Monday's second semifinal tilt between the Dominican Republic and the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Santiago, who will return to Dodgers camp as a Minor League invitee later in the week, said afterward that his arm was just fine and he would be ready to resume Spring Training.
"I had a little bit of strain in my arm, but everything is fine," Santiago said. "If I had to I could have continued out there. Yes, sir."
A career Minor League pitcher, Santiago protected a 1-0 lead as he retired the first 10 hitters he faced. Hirokazu Ibata's single through the middle in the fourth ended the streak of outs, but Santiago retired the next two men to end the inning.
After Hayato Sakamoto singled to lead off the fifth, Yoshio Itoi hit a ground ball that was smothered by second baseman Irving Falu. His throw to first baseman Carlos Rivera retired Itoi, but there was congestion at first involving Santiago, Rivera and Itoi all around the bag. Santiago was removed from the game at that point.
After walking the first hitter he faced in relief of Santiago, Red Sox reliever Jose De La Torre struck out Atsunori Inaba and Nobuhiro Matsuda to close out the fifth inning.
Santiago said the near-collision at first base had nothing to do with the precautionary decision to take him out of the game.
"On the play before, I feel like I pulled my arm down and that caused the problem," he said. "Nothing happened at first base. Everything was good."
Santiago, 28, is a 6-foot-2, 210-pound right-hander born in Guayama, P.R. He is 36-51 in seven Minor League seasons with a 4.04 ERA. He has appeared in 156 games, 116 coming as a starter.
He said that he wasn't sure what the Dodgers had in store for him this spring, but that he'd be ready for any circumstance.
"I don't know," he said. "They make the decision. I don't make the decision. I think they're going to send me to Triple-A. If they do, I'll go there and do my job. That's the only thing I know."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow@boomskie on witter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.