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Cruz, Polanco homer to lift Dominican Republic to 3-0 win

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SAN DIEGO (AP) The Dominican Republic took a step toward a repeat title in the World Baseball Classic thanks to impressive home runs by Nelson Cruz and Gregory Polanco.

The Dominicans also got some nice pitching in a 3-0 victory Thursday night that pushed Venezuela to the brink of elimination.

“We understand the importance of this game and what we had to do,” Nelson said after he hit his third homer of the tournament. “We woke up. We needed to start moving.”

The Dominican Republic (1-1) had won 11 straight WBC games until losing to Puerto Rico in the Pool F opener on Tuesday night.

Venezuela (0-2) fell victim to a United States comeback on Wednesday night.

The Americans play Puerto Rico on Friday night. On Saturday, Puerto Rico faces Venezuela and the Dominican Republic faces the United States. The top two teams advance to the semifinals at Dodger Stadium. The Pool F winner plays the Netherlands on Monday while the Pool F runner-up plays Japan on Tuesday. The championship game is Wednesday night.

Cruz homered to right off Arcenio Leon leading off the eighth. He hit a three-run homer off Andrew Miller in the eighth inning Saturday night to help the Dominicans rally for a 7-5 victory against the United States in the opening round in Miami.

“We get excited whenever we make a good play,” Cruz said. “That is how we grew up playing. We act like kids. Anytime we score a run, that is how we react.”

Robinson Cano hit an RBI single in the seventh.

Jhoulys Chacin (0-1), who signed with the Padres in December, locked into a duel with former Padres pitcher Edinson Volquez.

Chacin put runners on first and second with two outs in the third before punching out Jose Bautista. Chacin slapped his glove in celebration as he headed to the dugout.

But he still got the loss in his new home ballpark after he allowed Polanco’s homer to right leading off the fifth to break the scoreless tie.

Chacin reached his pitch count two batters later after walking Jose Reyes, leaving after allowing one run and three hits, striking out three and walking three.

“We’re going to have a difficult time if we don’t really tighten that piece up,” Venezuela manager Omar Vizquel said.

Dominican manager Tony Pena pulled Volquez after the Miami Marlins right-hander put runners on first and third with one out in the fifth. Fernando Abad (1-0) came on and got Ender Inciarte to ground into a double play.

“Volqy did a great job and there is no question we have a great bullpen,” Pena said. “And today I was going to use everybody.”

Volquez allowed four hits, struck out six and walked two. Jeurys Familia pitched the ninth for the save, allowing two bloop singles that put runners on the corners before striking out Alcides Escobar to end it.

After Volquez left, five relievers allowed only four baserunners.

Dominican third baseman Manny Machado made a great play to throw out Miguel Cabrera in the sixth. Machado backhanded the ball, spun and threw from deep in foul territory. First baseman Carlos Santana caught the throw and dove at first base, touching the bag with his glove just before Cabrera arrived.

“It’s nothing new,” Cruz said. “He’s one of the best third basemen in the league. He’s just unbelievable.”

Cabrera came out with stiffness in his back.

Yankees acquire A.J. Cole from the Nats

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The New York Yankees have acquired reliever A.J. Cole from the Washington Nationals for cash considerations.

Cole was supposed to be the Nats’ fifth starter this year but that didn’t work out too well. He pitched in four games for the Nats, starting two, to the tune of a 13.06 ERA, having given up six home runs in 10.1 innings. That’s . . . something.

Don’t get too used to Cole on the New York roster, as this seems like one of those “give us an arm” for a couple of days deals, after which Cole will be DFA’d and will either accept an assignment to Scranton or be cut loose. Such is life at the fringes for a guy who is out of minor league options.