Gio Gonzalez gave Team USA its best start yet, and David Wright provided a big finish.
The Washington Nationals starter pitched five scoreless innings and the Americans beat Puerto Rico, 7-1, in the World Baseball Classic on Tuesday night in Miami.
Wright drove in five runs, the last three with a bases-loaded double in the eighth. That prompted chants of “U-S-A! U-S-A!” from the crowd of 32,872.
The United States fell behind in all three games in the opening round, but led from the first inning against Puerto Rico. The Americans will play Thursday night against the Dominican Republic, which remained unbeaten in the WBC by rallying past Italy, 5-4, on Tuesday.
Puerto Rico plays Italy in an elimination game Wednesday.
Gonzalez (1-0), who grew up in nearby Hialeah, struck out five for the hometown team and departed with a 3-0 lead. Manager Joe Torre then went to his bullpen, and five relievers combined to allow one run over the final four innings.
Wright had an RBI groundout in the third and a run-scoring single in the fifth. He’s 7 for 16 (.438) with 10 RBI in four games. . . .
Nelson Cruz’s two-out RBI single broke a seventh-inning tie, and the Dominican Republic overcame an early four-run deficit to beat Italy, 5-4, in the World Baseball Classic.
The Dominicans (4-0) remained unbeaten and advanced to a winner’s-bracket game Thursday night in the double-elimination second round. . . .
In Tokyo, Shinnosuke Abe homered twice in an eight-run second inning as two-time defending champion Japan beat the Netherlands, 10-6, to secure first place in Pool 1 of the WBC. Japan and the Netherlands have qualified for the semifinals in San Francisco.
●ORIOLES: The cause of Nick Markakis’s neck soreness is more severe than originally thought, but the Baltimore Orioles hope that some rest will allow the team’s starting right fielder to return to spring training games in the next week or two.
An MRI exam Monday revealed a small disk herniation — or slight tear — in the C4-C5 section (neck area) of Markakis’s spine, Manager Buck Showalter said.
With this kind of minor tear, players are usually sidelined between seven to 14 days before they can resume baseball activities, Showalter said. Markakis was scratched from a game March 3 with neck spasms and hasn’t played since March 1, so the club is optimistic he can return in less than two weeks.
●●●RAYS: AL Cy Young Award winner David Price has been selected as Tampa Bay’s opening day starter against Baltimore.
●●BRAVES: Julio Teheran took another step into winning the fifth spot in Atlanta’s rotation, extending the St. Louis Cardinals’ offensive woes. Teheran struck out six in five hitless innings and lowered his ERA to 1.29 in the Braves’ 12-3 victory.
●ATHLETICS: Outfielder Yoenis Cespedes rejoined Oakland after briefly leaving spring training to be reunited with his family for the first time in about a year.
The Cuban defector surprised family members in Miami after they arrived over the weekend from the Turks and Caicos, where they had been detained as illegal immigrants. The relatives, including Cespedes’s mother, Estela Milanes, were released Jan. 21. Cespedes was back in the A’s lineup Tuesday against the Royals.
●ELSEWHERE: Former big leaguer Manny Ramirez said he is “starting a new beginning” after signing a short-term contract to play with the EDA Rhinos in Taiwan’s pro baseball league.