Jose Bautista homered and drove in four runs, and the Dominican Republic opened its bid for a second consecutive World Baseball Classic title with a 9-2 victory against Canada on Thursday.
Welington Castillo hit a two-run homer for the Dominicans, who went 8-0 to win the 2013 title. Before the game, manager Tony Pena said his team looks better on paper this year.
Bautista singled home a run in the second, singled again in the fifth and hit a three-run homer in the sixth off Dustin Molleken.
“This is a team full of cleanup hitters,” Bautista said in Spanish. “Whenever you contribute to the cause, you are happy.”
Jose Reyes had three of the Dominicans’ 15 hits. Castillo’s homer came in the second inning, when the Dominicans bunched six hits to score four runs off Ryan Dempster.
“That’s a pretty good ballclub they ran out there,” said Ernie Whitt, Canada’s manager. “There are no soft spots for sure.”
Carlos Martinez pitched four innings in first career WBC outing and allowed one run.
“I achieved my dream — to play for the Dominican Republic,” Martinez said in Spanish. “I said, ‘This is my game.’ I wasn’t nervous. I simply worked as I always do.”
The Dominicans were the home team and had the majority of support from a boisterous crowd of 27,388 at Marlins Park, with fans chanting, blowing horns and pounding drums throughout the game.
Dempster, a 16-year major league veteran who came out of retirement to pitch for the Canadians at age 39, lasted only two innings and gave up four runs. It was his first game since the 2013 World Series.
“I wish I would have made a couple of better pitches,” Dempster said. “They’re a really good lineup. They almost have an All-Star team.”
The Canadians are in danger of being eliminated in the opening round for the fourth time in as many WBCs.
Dominican reliever Fernando Rodney had the crowd roaring during pregame introductions when he struck his customary arrow-shooting pose while holding a large plantain.
Rodney struck out two in the ninth and celebrated by again striking his pose, this time without the plantain. Jeurys Familia got the final out.
The game also had a somber side for the Dominicans, who hung jerseys in their dugout honoring Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura and former major leaguer Andy Marte. They died in separate traffic accidents on the same January morning in the Dominican Republic.
“A beautiful gesture from management to show the brotherhood of all Dominican players,” Bautista said.