MIAMI—The Dominican Republic beat the United States on the field and in the stands Thursday night, playing a passionate brand of baseball inspired by a flag-waving pro-D.R. crowd at Marlins Park.
“I don’t know how many flights from the Dominican they took to get here,” said an appreciative Dominican manager Tony Pena, perhaps forgetting that there are a large number of his countrymen already living in Miami.
At one point in Thursday night’s post-game press conference, Pena nearly broke down in tears as he talked about how proud he was of his team and the support they received.
Dominican reporters, meanwhile, framed the Pool 2 World Baseball Classic victory as a modern-day tale of David and Goliath, considering that the U.S. population of 315 million is about 305 million more than what can be found in the D.R.
“If you see all our games, we always play with intensity,” said Dominican right fielder Nelson Cruz, one of his team’s heroes Thursday night. “But our fans gave us that something extra.”
Meanwhile, all is not lost for Team USA, which can still advance to next week’s semifinals in San Francisco if it can defeat Puerto Rico on Friday night.
The Americans, now 3-2 in this WBC and 10-9 all-time in Classic play, will start pitcher Ryan Vogelsong, who beat Italy Saturday in another elimination game. Puerto Rico will counter with minor league veteran Nelson Figueroa.
Team USA will have to make do without third baseman David Wright, who suffered a rib injury and will not play this weekend. In fact, he is likely out for the rest of the tournament, a blow to a deep U.S. lineup considering Wright had 10 RBIs in the first four games. His replacement, Willie Bloomquist, is known for his glove and versatility, as well as his light bat.
Vogelsong expressed confidence, though, in himself and his team.
“I’ve been here (elimination games) before, a couple times in the postseason last year (with the Giants) and once already in the Classic in Arizona,” he said. “Same as always, I just need to go out and execute pitches.”
If he does not, the Classic could come to an early end for Team USA.