MIAMI (AP) — Nelson Cruz hit a go-ahead, three-run homer off Andrew Miller in the eighth inning, Starling Marte added a solo shot off the All-Star reliever and the defending champion Dominican Republic overcame a five-run deficit to beat the United States 7-5 Saturday night.
The comeback delighted a clamorous crowd of 37,446, the largest for baseball in the five-year history of Marlins Park.
The U.S. fell to 1-1 and is in jeopardy of being eliminated in the first round. The Americans, who play Canada on Sunday, failed to reach the three previous WBC finals.
The Dominicans improved to 10-0 in the past two Classics, including 2-0 this year. They can clinch first place in Pool C and advance to the second round by beating Colombia on Sunday.
The Americans were on the verge of clinching a berth in the second round when Miller took the mound with a 5-3 lead in the eighth. He walked Jose Bautista starting the inning, Carlos Santana followed with an infield single and Cruz pulled an 0-2 slider just inside the foul pole.
Miller yanked off his cap in dismay, while Cruz began gleefully pumping his fists even before he reached first base.
One batter later, Marte also homered. Manny Machado began the comeback with a solo homer in the sixth against Tanner Roark.
The frenzied sellout crowd was the night’s biggest star – and a rare sight at Marlins Park, with even the upper deck packed. U.S. fans were far outnumbered in the stands, not a surprise in a city that is a gateway to the Caribbean.
Dominican rooters spent much of the game on their feet while honking horns, pounding drums and rattling noisemakers. Eventually they rattled the Americans.
U.S. starter Marcus Stroman threw 4 2/3 scoreless innings, but his replacement, Roark, allowed Machado’s homer and Santana’s two-run single.
Brandon Crawford had a pair of two-out, run-scoring hits for the Americans, and the Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich each delivered an RBI hit. A misplay of a routine fly by the Dominicans helped the U.S. take a 2-0 lead on the third.
The Dominicans’ Edinson Volquez, making his fifth career WBC start, allowed three runs – one earned – in 3 2/3 innings. Jeurys Familia, facing possible suspension under Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy, pitched a perfect ninth for the save.