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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.

Marcus Stroman named World Baseball Classic MVP

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United States starter Marcus Stroman was named Most Valuable Player of the World Baseball Classic after helping lead the U.S. to its first ever WBC title on Wednesday night in an 8-0 victory over Puerto Rico. Stroman flirted with a no-hitter through six innings, but gave up a double to lead off the seventh before being relieved by Sam Dyson.

Stroman also pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings against the Dominican Republic in Pool C play on March 11. He struggled in Pool F play against Puerto Rico last Friday, surrendering four runs in 4 2/3 innings.

The WBC MVP award understandably goes to a player of the winning team. However, Wladimir Balentien of the Netherlands deserves special mention. In 26 at-bats during the WBC, he hit a double and had a WBC-high four home runs, 12 RBI, and 12 runs scored while putting up a .615/.677/.1.115 batting line. That’s MVP-esque as far as this tournament is concerned.

U.S. blanks Puerto Rico 8-0 to win first World Baseball Classic title

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The United States handed Puerto Rico its first loss in the World Baseball Classic, winning 8-0 for its first title in the fourth iteration of the tournament.

Puerto Rico starter Seth Lugo was matching Marcus Stroman zero-for-zero through the first two innings, but the U.S. broke out for a pair of runs when Ian Kinsler deposited a two-run home run just beyond the fence in left-center at Dodger Stadium. The U.S. tacked on two more in the fifth on RBI singles from Christian Yelich and Andrew McCutchen, pushing the lead to 4-0.

Meanwhile, Stroman was dealing. The right-hander, normally seen in a Blue Jays uniform, held Puerto Rico hitless through his first six innings, giving up just a lone walk. The U.S. put together a long rally in the top of the seventh, scoring three runs on three hits, two walks, and a hit batter. Stroman came back out for the seventh but immediately served up a double down the left field line to Angel Pagan. U.S. manager Jim Leyland immediately lifted Stroman from the game, bringing in Sam Dyson who escaped the inning without any further damage.

Pat Neshek allowed a leadoff single to Yadier Molina to begin the eighth, but induced a double-play, then worked around a two-out walk by striking out Kenny Vargas to end the frame.

In the ninth, David Robertson took over. He induced an infield pop-up from Enrique Hernandez. After Pagan singled up the middle, Francisco Lindor sharply grounded out to Eric Hosmer at first base for the second out. Finally, Robertson closed it out, inducing Carlos Correa to ground out to third base, making the U.S. 8-0 victors over Puerto Rico to win the World Baseball Classic.

Puerto Rico had an admirable run, defeating Venezuela, Mexico, and Italy to get out of Pool D undefeated. Then, in Pool F, it beat Venezuela again as well as the U.S. and the Dominican Republic to move to the semifinals. It narrowly edged Netherlands 4-3 in the semifinals to get into the finals.

The U.S. lost to the D.R. but beat Canada and Colombia to get out of Pool C. In Pool F, the U.S. lost to Puerto Rico and defeated the D.R again as well as Venezuela. The U.S. took down Japan in the semifinals to advance to the finals to play Puerto Rico.

The U.S. joins Japan (twice, 2006 and ’09) and the Dominican Republic (2013) as countries to win the World Baseball Classic. The 2017 tournament was a rousing success, setting attendance records, drawing over one million fans to ballparks to take in the games. It will hopefully encourage commissioner Rob Manfred and others to make a concerted effort to make the 2021 tournament bigger and better.