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U.S., Dominicans open second round with wins

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U.S. players Craig Kimbrel (L) and Adam Jones (10) high five as their team leaves the field after defeating Puerto Rico in their 2013 World
U.S. players Craig Kimbrel (L) and Adam Jones (10) high five as their team leaves the field after defeating Puerto Rico in their 2013 World

(Reuters) - Favorites United States and the Dominican Republic upheld their status in contrasting fashion with wins on Tuesday that opened the double-elimination, second round of the World Baseball Classic in Miami.

The Dominican Republic overcame an early four-run deficit to beat Italy 5-4 on Tuesday, while the United States team took a quick lead and rode the strong pitching of starter Gio Gonzalez and hot hitting of David Wright to beat Puerto Rico 7-1 at Marlins Park.

Two teams from Pool 2 will advance to the semi-finals, joining twice defending champions Japan and the Netherlands in the championship round starting on March 17 in San Francisco.

Italy will play Puerto Rico on Wednesday with the loser eliminated from the tournament, while the United States and Dominican Republic clash on Thursday.

Gonzalez, pitching in front of his hometown crowd, threw five shutout innings, giving up just three hits while strike out five without a walk.

Wright, who belted a grand slam home run in a key U.S. victory over Italy in the first round, feasted with the bases loaded again. The New York Mets third baseman drove in five runs with the bases jammed, including a three-run double that turned it into a rout in the eighth.

"I'm hitting with bases loaded every other at-bat," said Wright, who is leading the tournament with 10 runs batted in.

"I got Joe Mauer in front of me, Ryan Braun in front of me...it seems like every at-bat I'm hitting with runners in scoring position."

In the earlier game, Nelson Cruz's two-out, broken-bat single in the seventh inning scored Robinson Cano with the game-winning run for the Dominican Republic after a shallow sacrifice fly by Hanley Ramirez tied the game against Italy.

Italy had built a 4-0 lead in the first inning, helped by the early wildness of Dominican starter Edinson Volquez who walked the first three batters he faced and gave up just one hit in the first - a three-run homer by Chris Colabello.

Italy's starting pitcher, Tiago Da Silva, mostly silenced the hard-hitting Dominicans but yielded solo home runs to Cano and Jose Reyes to close their lead to 4-2.

In the seventh, Reyes started the rally with a single off Pat Venditte and Erick Aybar followed with another base hit. Cano was credited with a single on a fly ball to short left field that glanced off the glove of shortstop Anthony Granato to load the bases.

Reliever Luca Panerati walked Edwin Encarnacion on four pitches, forcing in a run. In came Brian Sweeney, Italy's third pitcher of the inning, who yielded the game-tying sacrifice fly to Ramirez and opposite-field single by Cruz that prompted the Dominicans to leave the bench to celebrate.

Five Dominican relievers combined to throw four and two-thirds scoreless innings, with Pedro Strop taking the win and Fernando Rodney the save.

In Tokyo, Shinnosuke Abe blasted a pair of home runs to fuel an eight-run Japanese outburst in the second inning, and the two-time reigning Classic champs held off a late Dutch rally to win 10-6 and emerge as top seed from Pool 1.

(Reporting by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Frank Pingue/Peter Rutherford)

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