Alex Rios wasn't exactly having a World Baseball Classic to remember for Puerto Rico until the eighth inning of Wednesday's elimination game against Italy in Miami.
The Chicago White Sox outfielder was right in the middle of Puerto Rico's game-winning three-run rally that kept his team alive in the tournament and delayed his return to spring training camp in Arizona for at least two more days. Puerto Rico pulled out a 4-3 victory that eliminated Italy from the tournament.
Trailing 3-1 when entering the eighth inning, Puerto Rico had already scored to pull within a run when Rios dropped a single into right field to put runners on the corners. The hit was just his third of the tournament in 17 at-bats (.176) with all of them singles.
Rios then used smart base running to make a difference. A fly ball scored the tying run for Puerto Rico, with Rios advancing when the throw from the outfield went toward home plate instead of second base.
He wasn't done with his thinking-man's trip around the bases. With two outs, Rios then scored the go-ahead run from second base on a slow ground ball to shortstop. He actually moved to third on the grounder and scored when the throw pulled Italy first baseman Anthony Rizzo off the bag.
The game-winning run was evidence of how Rios is managing to be as productive as possible in the tournament despite a sub-.200 batting average. Angel Pagan leads Puerto Rico with seven hits, but Rios leads the club with five runs scored.
"We had to take advantage of everything we had," Rios told MLB Network. "There was two outs on that play and I just had to keep running. We had a big eighth inning. We did everything we had to do. ... It was a big game."
Puerto Rico will now play Friday against the loser of Thursday's game between the United States and the Dominican Republic. The loser of Friday's game will be eliminated.
"We have to keep doing what we've been doing," Rios said. "We have to play small ball, we have to do everything we have to do. We have to move over runners, we have to take advantage of mistakes and we just have to go out and play baseball. That's all we have to do."