Calendar? What calendar?

Maybe this will be the year Alex Rios backs up one strong season with another one. The White Sox right fielder is serious about rewriting his legacy, and took a huge step on Sunday night in front of one of the wildest crowds he's seen in the United States.

A tease throughout a career that saw him make his first All-Star team at age 25, Rios delivered the biggest hit of his life -- a high drive into the left-field seats at AT&T Park. It came in the seventh inning, with Puerto Rico clinging to the 1-0 lead it had held since Kenta Maeda was unusually wild in the first inning, and it effectively ended Japan's stranglehold on the World Baseball Classic, which it had won in 2006 and '09.

The two-run homer was the biggest blow in a 3-1 victory, sending Puerto Rico to the championship game against the winner of Monday night's Kingdom of the Netherlands-Dominican Republic semifinal. Rios also had a screaming single in the eighth inning, hit so hard that third base coach Josue Espada had to throw up the stop sign for Carlos Beltran, taking the air out of the crowd of 33,613.

"It's exciting,'' Rios said. "The whole tournament has been exciting for us. We've very proud for what we've done.''

A part of Rios also must be relieved.

He knew the danger signs were there before he dropped his equipment bag off at the White Sox clubhouse last month. He was trending downward from the moment the ball dropped in Times Square.