Facing a 5-0 deficit, the Dominican Republic proved why it’s the defending champion of the World Baseball Classic, and why it is the favorite to win it again.
Nelson Cruz’s three-run home run in the eighth put the Dominicans ahead for the first time in the game, and Starling Marte’s solo shot later in the inning added insurance in the Dominican Republic’s stunning 7-5 win over Team USA Saturday in Miami.
The US held a five-run lead through 5 1⁄2 innings, but when the game became a battle of the bullpens, the Dominican Republic took over. Hansel Robles, Alex Colome and Jeurys Familia combined to face the minimum over the final three innings to give the bats an opportunity to take the lead.
In addition to Cruz and Marte, Manny Machado homered for the Dominicans. Marte had three hits, and Carlos Santana added a pair.
American starter Marcus Stroman pitched a strong 4 2⁄3 innings, yielding just three singles with four strikeouts. His counterpart, Edinson Volquez, allowed three runs — one earned — on six hits in 3 2⁄3 innings.
Brandon Crawford and Christian Yelich had two-hit games, including a double, for the US.
After the US tacked on two runs in the top of the sixth, Machado’s towering home run to left field off Tanner Roark started the comeback. Roark walked back-to-back hitters, and Santana’s RBI single cut the Dominicans’ deficit to 5-2. Roark stranded two runners, but the floodgates had opened.
Roark started the seventh by allowing a leadoff double to Marte to end his night. Welington Castillo then greeted David Robertson with a double to score Marte to inch even closer.
US manager Jim Leyland called on Andrew Miller, one of the league’s best relievers, likely expecting a six-out save from the star lefty. He would never get the opportunity. He hit Jose Bautista to open the eighth and allowed an infield hit to Santana to bring up Cruz. He proceeded to wrap a three-run home run around the foul pole in left field to give the Dominicans a 6-5 lead. Marte’s opposite-field home run off Miller extended the lead by one.
The Dominicans will finish Pool C play against Colombia but has not yet guaranteed passage to Round 2 in San Diego. A win to go to 3-0 in pool play would do so. Team USA takes on rival Canada. If the Dominican Republic beats Colombia, the US would advance with a win. The top two teams in the pool advance.
While the U.S. offense struggled to generate anything against Jose Quintana Friday, it had a runner reach base in each of the first two innings and then got on the board in the third. With Ian Kinsler on first, Adam Jones lined a ball into the right-center field gap that Marte appeared to catch, but a collision with Cruz jarred the ball loose. Kinsler scored as the ball rolled to the wall, and after advancing to third on the play, Jones scored when Yelich dropped a single into left field.
An inning later, it was another two-out hit that extended the Americans’ lead to 3-0. Crawford lined a single in front of Marte, allowing Paul Goldschmidt to score from second. That would knock Volquez out of the game, and it was up to Hector Neris to strike out Kinsler to strand two runners.
Meanwhile, Stroman took the mound looking to replicate Chris Archer’s Friday success against a much tougher lineup. The talented Dominican lineup was shut down through 4 2⁄3 innings, unable to get more than one runner on base at any time against Stroman. Roark induced a flyout from Castillo to end the fifth.
In the sixth, Team USA extended its lead against Jumbo Diaz. Goldschmidt walked with one out, and Giancarlo Stanton drove him in with a double to the wall in left-center field. Crawford then made it a 5-0 game with a two-out double to score Stanton.