Gio Gonzalez pitches brilliantly and David Wright drives in five as USA defeats Puerto Rico

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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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Manoah, Merrifield lead Blue Jays to 3-1 win over Rays

Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Alek Manoah pitched seven shutout innings, Whit Merrifield hit a three-run homer and the Toronto Blue Jays regained the top AL wild-card spot with a 3-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday night.

The Blue Jays lead Tampa Bay by one game. The top wild card finisher will host all games in their best-of-three opening-round series, while the other two wild cards play strictly on the road.

Manoah (15-7) scattered four hits, walked two and struck out eight while throwing a season-high 113 pitches. The righty worked out of a two-on, one-out jam in the sixth by striking out Randy Arozarena and getting a flyout from David Peralta.

Jordan Romano replaced Tim Mayza with two on and two outs in the eighth and allowed pinch-hitter Harold Ramirez‘s RBI infield single but avoided further damage by striking out Manuel Margot. Romano finished the game to get his 35th save in 41 chances.

Tampa Bay starter Drew Rasmussen (10-7) gave up one run, three hits and two walks in 6 1/3 innings. He struck out five.

The teams combined for 31 runs, with the Rays accounting for 20, in the first two games of the series that were both won by Tampa Bay.

Arozarena got the Rays’ first hit off Manoah with a two-out double in the fourth. He became the first Tampa Bay player and 20th big leaguer to have 40 doubles, 20 homers and 30 stolen bases in a season.

Teoscar Hernandez ended Rasmussen’s night with a double in the seventh. Brooks Raley entered and, after a walk to pinch-hitter Danny Jansen, Merrifield made it 3-0 on his 10th homer of the season.

Merrifield homered twice in Thursday night’s 10-5 loss to the Rays.

Alejandro Kirk opened the second with a single before Rasmussen retired 12 in a row until Merrifield’s leadoff double in the sixth.

Plate umpire Corey Blaser took a hard foul ball by Margot on the mask in the eighth but remained in the game.

HONORING KK

The Rays posted a thank you on the message board for CF Kevin Kiermaier, who is out for the season following left hip surgery. Kiermaier is in the final season of a $53.5 million, six-year contract that includes a club option for 2023 that is expected to be declined.

TEAM AWARDS

Rays ace Shane McClanahan was voted the Don Zimmer MVP award winner by members of the Tampa Bay chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. CF Jose Siri was selected as the outstanding rookie. 3B Yandy Diaz received the Paul C. Smith Champions award as the player who best exemplifies the spirit of true professionalism on and off the field.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Blue Jays: RHP Nate Pearson (lat strain) allowed three runs and three hits over two-thirds of an inning for Triple-A Buffalo.

Rays: 2B Brandon Lowe (lower back) is done for the season.

UP NEXT

McClanahan (12-6), pulled from his start Tuesday in the fifth inning due to neck tightness, will face Blue Jays RHP Ross Stripling (8-4) on Sunday.