Miami • Gio Gonzalez gave Team USA its best start yet, and David Wright provided a big finish.
Gonzalez pitched five scoreless innings and the Americans beat Puerto Rico 7-1 in the World Baseball Classic on Tuesday night.
World Baseball Classic
» Japan 10, Netherlands 6
» Dominican Republic 5, Italy 4
» United States 7, Puerto Rico 1
» Dominican Republic vs. United States
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.
"Obviously the adrenaline gets pumping for this tournament," Wright said. "You wear that uniform, you want to go out there and represent your country. Hitting in this lineup is ridiculous. You have some of the best hitters in the game, and it creates some matchup problems."
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.
"It’s a marquee matchup," U.S. manager Joe Torre said. "They haven’t lost. They’ve got some guys having some fun. They have a lot of confidence. But I feel good about my team."
Puerto Rico plays Italy in an elimination game Wednesday.
"If you go inside our clubhouse, everybody is up," manager Edwin Rodriguez said. "We lost today. Turn the page. We concentrate on Wednesday."
Gonzalez, who grew up in nearby Hialeah, struck out five for the hometown team and departed with a 3-0 lead. He said U.S. pitching coach Greg Maddux helped him keep from getting distracted by the importance of the game and the big crowd.
"He said to think about fishing or something and take your mind off it," Gonzalez said. "Tune it out and think of something real simple. When you get some of the greats of baseball to help you out with your composure and keep your tunnel vision, that’s the best you can do."
Gonzalez lowered the ERA of the U.S. rotation to 4.00.
"Gio set the tone early, coming out and absolutely getting us in the dugout quick," Wright said. "We didn’t have to play too long on defense, and we kept putting runners on base. It was building that momentum, and Gio started it."
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