Gio Gonzalez was in mid-season form and David Wright continued his recent run of heroics as Team USA topped a punchless Puerto Rico squad 7-1 on Tuesday night at Marlins Park in Little Havana.
Gonzalez went five scoreless innings, allowing only three hits, walking none and fanning five. His fastball hit 93-94 mph consistently and his curve looked as sharp as it did throughout his dominant 2012 major league campaign with the Nationals. The Miami native threw 48 of his 69 pitches for strikes (the pitch-limit in the second round of the WBC is 80).
Wright plated a run on a groundout in the bottom of the third inning, added an RBI single with the bases loaded in the fifth inning and slugged a double to deep right-center with the bases loaded in the eighth inning, scoring more three runs. “Captain America,” as MLB Network play-by-play man Matt Vasgersian has taken to calling him, now boasts 10 RBI in just four 2013 World Baseball Classic games. Joe Mauer drew three walks and drove home a run with a double to left-center in the first inning and Adam Jones added a tally on a single up the middle in the seventh.
The defense from Team USA was sharp all around. As was the bullpen, with Jeremy Affeldt throwing a scoreless sixth and Vinnie Pestano tossing a scoreless seventh. Puerto Rico’s Jesus Feliciano was hit by a Steve Cishek pitch in the eighth inning and came around to score after Eddie Rosario doubled and Angel Pagan hit into a fielder’s choice groundout. But that was the only run that Puerto Rico could muster.
Team USA will face the Dominican Republic on Thursday at 7:00 p.m. ET for a berth into the WBC’s four-team Championship Round, which will be hosted at San Francisco’s AT&T Park from March 17-19. Puerto Rico will take on Italy in a winner-stays-alive game on Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. ET in Miami. It’s all on MLB Network.
32,872 fans showed up to Tuesday night’s game. Marlins Park averaged 27,401 fans per game in 2012.
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Cardinals shortstop Aledmys Diaz was childhood friends with Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, so it was expected when Diaz took time away from the team on Monday to visit Fernandez’s family in Miami. They grew up on the same street in Cuba and played for the same youth baseball team and both would ultimately wind up playing Major League Baseball in the United States.
In the bottom of the fourth inning of Tuesday night’s game against the Reds, Diaz hit a 2-1 Robert Stephenson fastball out to left-center field for a no-doubt grand slam. Teammate Yadier Molina gave Diaz a tight hug as he crossed home plate.
Before Tuesday’s game, Diaz said that the best way to honor Fernandez was to play with his passion, as MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reports. Diaz said, “I only play for [Fernandez’s] family right now.”
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The Red Sox would have clinched the AL East if one of two things happened on Tuesday night: the Red Sox themselves beat the Yankees, or the Orioles defeated the Blue Jays. Neither happened.
The Jays soundly took down the Orioles 5-1 behind six strong innings from Aaron Sanchez. Josh Donaldson went 2-for-2 with a two-run home run and a pair of walks and leadoff batter Ezequiel Carrera went 2-for-3 with a solo homer, an RBI single, a walk, and three runs scored.
Meanwhile, at Yankee Stadium, the Yankees outlasted the Red Sox for a 6-4 win, responding to both two-run innings the Sox had in the sixth and seventh with a run in the sixth and two in the seventh. Gary Sanchez hit his 20th homer of the season. Didi Gregorius and Tyler Austin also contributed dingers. Starter Luis Cessa pitched well, limiting the Sox to two runs over six innings on five hits and a walk with two strikeouts. Red Sox starter David Price struggled, yielding six runs in 6 1/3 innings. Yankees reliever Tyler Clippard got into trouble in the ninth inning but was able to wiggle out of trouble to finish out the game.
Once again, the Red Sox will be able to clinch the AL East on Wednesday with a win over the Yankees or a Blue Jays loss to the Orioles.