SAN DIEGO—The Dominican Republic is a team defined by its big bombers, an All-Star-driven juggernaut expected to pummel opponents into submission.
On Thursday night, the Dominicans showed they can win with some old-fashioned pitching and defense, too.
Gregory Polanco and Nelson Cruz homered to back a combined shutout by six pitchers, and the Dominicans beat Venezuela 3-0 in their second game of second-round play of the World Baseball Classic at Petco Park.
Polanco’s solo homer in the fifth was all the Dominican pitching staff needed, but an RBI single by Robinson Cano in the seventh and Cruz’s leadoff homer in the eighth provided insurance for good measure.
Edinson Volquez got the pitching dominance started with 4.1 scoreless innings, allowing four hits and striking out six. Fernando Abad, Hansel Robles, Dellin Betances, Alex Colome and Jeurys Familia took it the rest of the way. None pitched more than an inning, but were equally effective as the Dominicans combined for 14 strikeouts, two walks, and eight hits allowed.
“There’s no question we can win with our pitchers,” Dominican Republic manager Tony Pena said. “We have a great bullpen. Volquez did a great job today. After that I was ready to go with all those guys right from the get-go. I told them before the game I would not save anybody today. I want to use everybody at any time. Just be ready.”
The staff was aided by a flawless performance from their defense, and two highlight-reel plays from third baseman Manny Machado in particular.
Machado made a sterling charge-and-throw on the run on a bunt in the fifth to rob Robinson Chirinos of an infield hit in the fifth, but it was just an appetizer for what was to come in the sixth.
Channeling his Orioles forebear Brooks Robinson, Machado snagged a hard grounder from Miguel Cabrera down the third-base line on his backhand and was carried into foul territory by his momentum. Still moving deeper into foul ground, Machado spun his shoulders, leapt in the air, and unleashed a startling one-hopper across the diamond in time to nab Cabrera, helped by some nifty glovework from first baseman Carlos Santana. For those old enough to remember, it sparked memories of Robinson robbing Lee May of the Reds in the 1970 World Series.
Cabrera, stunned, simply looked across the diamond at Machado with a slight smirk on his face.
“Well, I mean, it’s nothing new,” Cruz said. “He’s the best or one of the best third basemen in the league. I get a chance to play with him and I see that play over and over. He’s just unbelievable.”
Venezuela righthander Jhoulys Chacin was able to keep up with his Domincan counterparts for a while, taking a two-hit shutout into fifth before Polanco sent a 3-1 fastball 387 feet into the right-field bleachers to break the scoreless tie.
“I knew I was going to have my moment and my opportunity,” said Polanco, who finished 2-for-4 and is hitting .533 in the WBC. “I just really wanted to be focused and ready. Thank God everything turned out well.”
The Domincans added on when Cano drilled a two-out single to score Welington Castillo from second in the bottom of the seventh and Cruz launched an opposite field homer to start off the eighth.
Venezuela threatened with a two-out rally in the ninth that brought the Alcides Escobar to the plate as the tying run, but Familia struck him out to end it after 4 hours and 5 minutes.
For Venezuela, it was another night of pain and loss. Not only did they drop to 2-4 in the tournament and virtually out of contention to advance, but Cabrera left after the sixth inning with back tightness.
“Cabrera, if his back is tight, he’s not going to continue the game,” Venezuela manager Omar Vizquel said. “Hopefully tomorrow he’ll be recuperating and hopefully he’ll wake up relaxed. And obviously if he’s doing well by Saturday, well, logically we’re going to include him in the lineup.
“But we’ve only (scored) two runs, and the percentage of effectiveness, really, we’re going to have a difficult time if we don’t really tighten that piece up.”