Team USA keeps rolling out the offense at the World Cup in the Netherlands, and the Americans remain undefeated in pool play as a result.
Team USA moved to 4-0 Wednesday by defeating Puerto Rico 12-6. Catcher Rob Johnson (Mariners) had another big game, hitting a bases-clearing double to break open a 4-3 game in the sixth inning. Johnson later scored on a fielder’s choice and an error to give Team USA an 8-3 lead.
Outfielder Chris Latham staked the U.S. to a 4-0 lead in the first with a grand slam. Lastings Milledge (Mets) led off the game with a double and Ben Zobrist (Astros) walked. One out later, Bryan LaHair (Mariners) walked to load the bases, and after Josh Phelps (Devil Rays) struck out, Latham picked him up with his home run off Puerto Rican starter Josue Matos (Phillies).
Puerto Rico had rallied behind a solo homer by Jose Leon (Reds) and a two-run shot by Hector Kuilan, who is Latham’s teammate at Bridgeport in the independent Atlantic League. Both home runs came off lefty Chris Michalak (Diamondbacks), who pitched five innings for the victory.
Puerto Rico closed back to 8-6 before the U.S. scored two runs in the eighth and the ninth. Zobrist had an RBI double in the eighth, while Johnson had an RBI double in the ninth. Team USA banged out 10 hits and took advantage of three Puerto Rican errors and nine walks.
Randy Ruiz (Phillies) had three hits to lead Puerto Rico.
In other games Wednesday, Nicaragua beat Spain 5-2 while Japan defeated Taiwan 7-1.
The Americans are tied for the best record in round-robin play with Cuba and the host Netherlands and have a half-game lead over Nicaragua (3-0) going into a rest day Thursday. The Nicaraguans catch up by playing Colombia in a game rescheduled by Colombia’s late arrival to the tournament. The U.S. and Nicaragua face off on Friday.
The top four teams from each pool advance to the one-and-done medal round, which begins Sept. 13.In World Cup games played later Wednesday, the host Netherlands pounded South Africa 20-2 to remain tied with Cuba at 5-0 atop Pool A. Panama pounded 21 hits in a 13-6 defeat of Canada to move to 4-1 in that pool and drop Canada (2-2) into a tie with Korea for the fourth and final spot in the pool that would advance to the medal round, with China (2-3) on their heels. Cuba had to out-slug the improved Chinese 12-8 to remain undefeated. Australia beat the Czech Republic 14-0 in muddled Pool B, which Team USA leads at 4-0 with Japan (4-1) and Nicaragua (3-0) next. Puerto Rico (3-2), Taiwan (2-2) and Australia (2-2) are all contenders for the medal round as well.