Gio Gonzalez gave Team USA its best start yet, and David Wright provided a big finish.
Gonzalez 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 in the first game in Miami. Nelson Cruz’s two-out RBI single broke a seventh-inning tie.
Puerto Rico plays Italy in an elimination game today.
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 RBIs in four games.
Joe Mauer’s two-out RBI double scored Ryan Braun with the first U.S. run in the opening inning. The Americans added a run in the third on singles by Brandon Phillips and Braun and Wright’s RBI groundout.
Adam Jones had a two-run RBI single in the seventh.
• Japan 10, Netherlands 6: 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 at Tokyo.
Japan and the Netherlands have qualified for the semifinals in San Francisco on March 17-18.
Clearing the bases
Derek Jeter says he will play at shortstop tonight against the Philadelphia Phillies. It’s the first time in the field for Jeter since ankle surgery last fall. Jeter says after working out in Tampa, Fla., that he’ll “be out there” against the Phillies after two games as the designated hitter. … The game will also mark the spring training debut for Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte. … A.L. Cy Young Award winner David Price has been selected as Tampa Bay’s opening-day starter against East rival Baltimore. He went 20-5 last year. … Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis has been diagnosed with a small herniated disc in his neck and will be out about another week. … Former MLB star Manny Ramirez said he is “starting a new beginning” after signing a short-term contract to play with the EDA Rhinos in Taiwan’s professional baseball league. The Rhinos said Ramirez, 40, will earn $25,000 a month to appear with the team during this year’s March-November season. … Julio Teheran took another step into winning the fifth spot in the Atlanta Braves’ rotation when he struck out six in five hitless innings and lowered his ERA to 1.29 in the Braves’ 12-3 win over St. Louis. Teheran has allowed four hits and struck out 18 in 14 innings.