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Originally published March 16, 2009 at 12:00 AM | Page modified March 16, 2009 at 10:20 PM

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With Felix Hernandez pitching, Venezuela beats Puerto Rico 2-0 in WBC

Ramon Hernandez and his Venezuela teammates are headed to the semifinals of the World Baseball Classic.

MIAMI —Despite a bungled replay review, the umps got the call right. Ramon Hernandez trotted home with a big run following a 10-minute delay, and now he and his Venezuela teammates are bound for Los Angeles and the semifinals of the World Baseball Classic.

Hernandez was correctly awarded a home run Monday night when a call was reversed after the TV replay system failed, and Venezuela delighted a cacophonous crowd of 25,599 by beating Puerto Rico 2-0 to secure a spot in the final four.

"We pleased all of Venezuela," manager Luis Sojo said. "We're very happy."

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.

"The United States is going to come ready," Puerto Rican catcher Ivan Rodriguez said. "The 11-1 game is over. It was a great game for us, but Tuesday is a brand new 0-0 game."

Rodriguez's team never got on the board Monday. 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 confusion.

"I was thinking, 'Why does it have to happen to me?"' Ramon Hernandez said. "I hit the ball good, definitely nobody catches it, and it starts a big question if it's a homer or not."

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.

"I knew it was a homer," Puerto Rican center fielder Carlos Beltran said. "But I tried to play it like it wasn't."

As the Venezuelans protested the call, the umpires conferred. Three umps then went under the stands for what would have been the WBC's first replay review, which is permitted on home run calls.

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There was a glitch, however.

"They couldn't get me the replay in the locker room," crew chief Ed Rapuano said. "We couldn't get the feed from New York."

Because third-base umpire Hitoshi Watarida was certain the hit was a homer, the crew returned to the field and waved Hernandez home.

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.

"He's the best in the game," Guillen said. "It's very important to have a closer like that. It's a lot of pressure for the opposition to face a guy like that."

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.

"Biggest game I ever pitched," Hernandez said. "To pitch in a game like this, that's what I like. It's the most exciting day of my life."

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.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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