Gio Gonzalez gave Team USA its best start yet, and David Wright provided a big finish in Miami.
Gonzalez pitched five scoreless innings and the Americans beat Puerto Rico, 7-1, in the World Baseball Classic on Tuesday night.
Wright drove in five runs, the last three with a bases-loaded double in the eighth. That prompted chants of “U-S-A! U-S-A!” from the crowd of 32,872.
The United States fell behind in all three games in the opening round, but led from the first inning against Puerto Rico. The Americans will play Thursday night against the Dominican Republic, which remained unbeaten in the WBC by rallying past Italy, 5-4, on Tuesday.
Puerto Rico plays Italy in an elimination game today.
Gonzalez (1-0), who grew up in nearby Hialeah, struck out five for the hometown team and departed with a 3-0 lead. Manager Joe Torre then went to his bullpen, and five relievers combined to allow one run over the final four innings.
Wright had an RBI groundout in the third and a run-scoring single in the fifth. He’s 7 for 16 (.438) with 10 RBI in four games.
Joe Mauer’s two-out RBI double scored Ryan Braun with the first U.S. run in the opening inning. The Americans added a run in the third on singles by Brandon Phillips and Braun and Wright’s RBI groundout.
Former Mariner Adam Jones had a two-run single in the seventh.
Dominican Republic 5, Italy 4: Nelson Cruz’s two-out RBI single broke a seventh-inning tie, and the Dominican Republic overcame an early four-run deficit to beat Italy.
The Dominicans (4-0) remained unbeaten and advanced to a winner’s-bracket game Thursday night in the double-elimination second round.
Japan 10, Netherlands 6: Shinnosuke Abe homered twice in an eight-run second inning, Hisayoshi Chono drove in five runs and two-time defending champion Japan beat the Netherlands, 10-6, to win its second-round group in Tokyo.
Both nations already had clinched berths in the semifinals Sunday.