Gio Gonzalez came home and pitched precisely as advertised for Team USA on Tuesday night in the second round of the World Baseball Classic.
The Nationals left-hander tossed five innings of shutout, three-hit ball and David Wright drove in five runs as the Americans defeated Puerto Rico, 7-1, at Marlins Park. The new home of the Marlins is about 10 miles southeast of Hialeah, Fla., where Gonzalez was raised, and a crowd of 32,872 was highly partisan, chanting "USA, USA" throughout the night.
The Mets third baseman had an RBI grounder, a run-scoring single and put an exclamation point on the win with an eighth-inning, bases-clearing double, giving him 10 RBIs in the four U.S. games, including a game-winning grand slam on Saturday night against Italy. Heading into Tuesday night's game, Gonzalez called the opportunity, "a kid's dream." He wasn't disappointed.
"It's still a dream, just to play for these guys and to represent Team USA and be here in Miami, and like I said, I'm a small-town kid from Hialeah, Fla., it's truly a blessing," Gonzalez said after striking out five, walking none and getting credit for the win. "You couldn't have scripted this any better -- to pitch the first game and help these guys out as much as possible and try to be a part of it. This was a blessing to be alongside some of the greatest. And to say that I pitched in front of my home crowd and to win, it is truly a dream."
The win for the Americans in this double-elimination bracket sets up a Classic match against the undefeated Dominican Republic here on Thursday night at 7 ET, a game that can be seen on MLB Network and ESPN Deportes. The winner of that one earns a spot in the semifinals at San Francisco's AT&T Park on Sunday or Monday.
The Japanese play the second seed from Pool 2 on Sunday at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT and the Kingdom of the Netherlands faces the top seed on Monday at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT. The final game is next Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT. Japan won the first two Classics in 2006 and '09.
Meanwhile, Puerto Rico plays an elimination game here against Italy on Wednesday night at 7 ET. The Italians lost to the D.R., 5-4, on Tuesday after squandering a 4-0 lead. The winner of that one remains alive and the loser is out of the tournament.
US tops Puerto Rico in Gio's dominant homecoming
MLB.com | Mar 13