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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.

Venezuela rallies in 9th inning to defeat Italy 4-3 in WBC tiebreaker

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Team Venezuela defeated Team Italy 4-3 in Monday night’s Group D tiebreaker, earning the right to advance to the second round — Pool F — of the World Baseball Classic.

Italy took an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning when John Andreoli doubled and promptly scored on a Daniel Descalso RBI single off of Venezuela starter Omar Bencomo.

Venezuela finally crossed the plate in the top of the sixth as Alcides Escobar led off with a walk and Odubel Herrera reached on a throwing error. Then, after Escobar was forced out at third base on a grounder, Ender Inciarte grounded a single to right field on a ball deflected by first baseman Chris Colabello, plating Herrera to tie the game at one apiece.

Andreoli broke the tie in the seventh inning, drilling a solo home run to right-center field off of Jose Alvarado, giving Italy a 2-1 lead.

Italy reliever Tiago Da Silva kept Venezuela off the board in the eighth, but Mike De Mark started the ninth by serving up a game-tying solo home run to Miguel Cabrera. DeMark then walked Victor Martinez and allowed a long go-ahead RBI single to Rougned Odor that was several inches from becoming a two-run home run. Odor thought it was a homer off the bat, which is why he didn’t run hard and was held to a single. Lefty Frailyn Florian relieved DeMark and gave up a single to right field to Carlos Gonzalez. Gonzalez tried to stretch it into a double and was tagged when he slid off the bag. Alcides Escobar then laid down a suicide squeeze bunt to give Venezuela an insurance run at 4-2.

The drama didn’t end there. With veteran MLB closer Francisco Rodriguez on the hill attempting to nail down the game, Alex Liddi led off the bottom of the ninth by crushing a solo home run to center field, cutting Italy’s deficit to 4-3. From there, Rodriguez was able to settle down, getting Gavin Cecchini, Drew Maggi, and Andreoli to ground out consecutively to end the game in a 4-3 victory for Venezuela.

Venezuela (2-2) joins Puerto Rico (3-0) from Pool D into Pool F, along with the Dominican Republic (3-0) and the United States (2-1) coming from Pool C. Venezuela kicks off play in the second round on Wednesday night at Petco Park against the United States.

Mexico defeats Venezuela 11-9, still eliminated from World Baseball Classic

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Team Mexico narrowly missed out on forcing a tiebreaker game to earn the right to advance to the next round of the World Baseball Classic. Despite defeating Team Venezuela on Sunday night 11-9, it has been eliminated. That was determined by average runs allowed per defensive inning. Mexico (1.12) trailed Venezuela (1.11). As a result, Venezuela and Italy will play a tiebreaker on Monday.

Mexico jumped out to a 5-0 lead against Venezuela in the second inning on an RBI double by Japhet Amador, a sacrifice fly by Luis Alfonso Cruz, and a three-run home run by Esteban Quiroz. Venezuela struck for a run in the bottom of the third on a Martin Prado single, but Brandon Laird extended Mexico’s lead to 8-1 in the fifth with a three-run homer of his own.

From there, it was a back-and-forth affair. Venezuela rallied for three runs in the bottom half of the fifth on an Ender Inciarte double, a Prado double, and a Miguel Cabrera single, reducing Venezuela’s deficit to 8-4. Adrian Gonzalez lifted a sacrifice fly in the top of the sixth to make it 9-4, but Venzuela struck for two in the bottom half thanks to RBI singles from Robinson Chirinos and Jose Altuve. Mexico’s Chris Roberson hit an RBI single to push it to 11-6, and Venezuela responded with three more runs in the bottom half of the seventh on a Victor Martinez two-run home run and a forced-in run when Chirinos was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.

Pitchers Oliver Perez and Roberto Osuna were able to get four and two outs, respectively, to hold Venezuela at bay and end the game in an 11-9 victory for Mexico.

Mexico’s first baseman, Adrian Gonzalez, isn’t happy with the results.

As mentioned, Italy and Venezuela will match up on Monday in a tiebreaker game. The winner will join Puerto Rico from Pool D and advance to the next round, Pool F, where their other opponents include the Dominican Republic and the United States. The winner of Monday’s tiebreaker will play the U.S. on Wednesday at Petco Park in San Diego.