Dominicans rally to edge Italy in World Classic
MIAMI (AFP) –
New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano homered and scored the go-ahead run to rally the Dominican Republic over Italy 5-4 on Tuesday in the second round of the World Baseball Classic.
The victory puts the Caribbean collection of Major League Baseball stars only one victory from reaching the semi-finals that begin on Sunday in San Francisco while the European champions are only one loss from being eliminated.
On Thursday, the Dominicans will face the winner of a later game between Puerto Rico and the United States to determine a semi-final berth while Italy will face the US-Puerto Rico loser in an elimination game on Wednesday.
Two-time defending champion Japan and surprise packets The Netherlands, with plenty of talent from the Dutch Antilles, have already qualified for the semi-finals.
Italy took a 4-0 lead in the first inning, a surge that started when Dominican right-handed pitcher Edinson Volquez walked the first three Italian batters and Alex Liddi hit a run-scoring sacrifice fly.
Chris Colabello, a 29-year-old slugger who is trying to earn a spot with the Minnesota Twins this season, followed with a three-run homer.
Jose Reyes answered with a solo homer to right field off Italian righthander Tiago Da Silva to put the Dominicans on the scoreboard in the third inning.
Cano smashed a solo homer in the sixth to pull the Dominicans within 4-2 and end Da Silva’s day. The Caribbean club then loaded the bases in the sixth but Miguel Tejada flew out to end the threat.
Cano reached first on an error by Italy shortstop Anthony Granato in the seventh to load the bases again and this time it paid off in a big way.
Italy southpaw reliever Luca Panerati entered and walked Edwin Encarnacion on four pitches to hand the Dominicans a third run, prompting the Italians to insert Brian Sweeney on the mound.
Hanley Ramirez smacked a sacrifice fly to centerfield to bring home the tying run and Nelson Cruz followed with a single to right to score Cano from third base and put the Dominicans ahead to stay.
The Dominican Republic entered the event with something to prove after being ousted in the first round of the 2009 Classic. This time, they rolled unbeaten through the first round, hitting .324 with a 2.67 earned-run average.
“When you have a constellation of stars such as the one that I have in my hand, you try hard to keep everyone happy,” Dominican manager Tony Pena said.
“As I told my team, there is no superstar here, everybody is the same here. We’re only here to do one thing, which is represent (our country) as well as possible.”