MIAMI — Closer Fernando Rodney struck out Rays teammate Ben Zobrist as part of his 1-2-3 ninth inning and the Dominican Republic beat the United States 3-1 Thursday to earn a berth in the final round of the World Baseball Classic.
After pinch-hitter Erick Aybar singled home Nelson Cruz with the go-ahead run in the ninth for the 5-0 Dominicans, Rodney came on for his fourth save. He got Adam Jones to fly to left and Shane Victorino to pop to third around his seven-pitch at-bat against pinch-hitter Zobrist, who watched a 96 mph fastball for strike three.
Rodney has yet to allow a hit in 4⅓ innings. Some teammates joined him in his arrow-shooting ritual while a loud, rambunctious pro-Dominican crowd of 34,366 cheered.
"We didn't come to disrespect anybody," Rodney said of the Dominican players' wild celebration. "It's just the way we play. If they don't understand it, just go to the Dominican and see it."
"There's passion on both sides," U.S. manager Joe Torre said. "It's just showed a little different. It's nothing we didn't expect."
The Dominicans have a spot in the semifinals beginning Sunday in San Francisco, where two-time defending champion Japan and the Netherlands have already advanced.
The United States must now beat Puerto Rico tonight to get to San Francisco. Ryan Vogelsong is scheduled to pitch for the Americans against Nelson Figueroa. The U.S. team played without leading RBI man David Wright, who was scratched because of sore ribs and is not expected back.
Cubs: In light of Matt Garza's slow recovery from a strained back muscle, the team set the rest of its rotation after opening day starter Jeff Samardzija, calling on ex-Ray Edwin Jackson to take the No. 2 spot, the Chicago Tribune reported. Jackson, whose turn will fall on the Wrigley opener April 8 barring postponements, will be followed by Travis Wood, Scott Feldman and Carlos Villanueva.
Dodgers: Recovering outfielder Carl Crawford (nerve irritation in left elbow) got six at-bats against pitching from both teams in a minor-league exhibition against Meija University, a Japanese college. The former Ray, and Red Sox bust, took part in throwing drills for the first time since suffering the irritation. "I was told he looked good," manager Don Mattingly said.
Tigers: First baseman Prince Fielder's vehicle got a flat tire on the way from Lakeland and didn't make it to Port St. Lucie, the Detroit Free Press reported. "They could only put one of those little tires on that's good for 50 miles," manager Jim Leyland said. "I told him to stay home."