Dominican Republic gets to Craig Kimbrel in ninth inning, beats Team USA
MIAMI -- The United States thought it was playing in the World Baseball Classic. To the Dominican Republic, it was the World Series.
When Fernando Rodney got Shane Victorino to pop up for the final out of the Dominican Republic's 3-1 win at Marlins Park Thursday night, the celebration that ensued could barely be contained by the stadium's retractable roof. The Dominican players rushed the field -- from the dugout, from the bullpen -- and created a jumping, whooping mob around the mound.
All night, the DR-partisan crowd of 34,366 honked horns, banged drums and yelled as loud as it could.
"We were sort of expecting that," U.S. manager Joe Torre said. "I know there's passion on both sides, except it's shown a little bit differently."
Craig Kimbrel, the Braves' unbeatable closer, lost his grip on a 1-1 tie by giving up two runs and three hits in the ninth.
Last season, he didn't allow more than one run or one hit in any inning of his 63 appearances. But Nelson Cruz led off the ninth by drilling his first pitch, a 97-mph fastball, for a double. One out later, pinch hitter Erick Aybar smacked a 1-and-2 pitch for the go-ahead single, and Jose Reyes added another run-scoring hit.
"It's not last year anymore," Kimbrel said. "It's a new year."
After the win, manager Tony Peña couldn't hold back tears as he spoke during the news conference. As much as he tried to downplay the importance of beating the United States earlier in the week, Peña could no longer deny the significance. He described his roster as "representing the 10 million inhabitants of the Dominican Republic."
"When you want to, you can," Peña said. "I don't think I'll have again a group of young men with the dedication and with the dignity with which they have represented our country."
Now the United States is left to battle for its WBC life in Friday night's elimination game against Puerto Rico.