Nelson Cruz hit a three-run home run in the eighth inning against ace relief pitcher Andrew Miller, highlighting a furious rally to give the Dominican Republic a 7-5 win over the United States on a thrilling Saturday night at the World Baseball Classic at Marlins Park in Miami.
Miller was arguably the best relief pitcher in baseball in 2016, and used in various high-leverage situations throughout the 2016 season, first with the New York Yankees and then helping the Cleveland Indians to the World Series.
Once up 5-0 over the defending WBC champs, the United States saw its lead shrink to 5-3, and turned to Miller to start the eighth inning. After a hit by pitch and a single up the middle, Cruz pulled a pitch down the left field line and over the wall to give the Dominican Republic their first lead of the game. One out later, Starling Marte added a solo shot.
Miller allowed 42 runs in 74⅓ innings in 2016, and allowed two home runs in a game just once in the last five seasons.
The Dominicans improved to 2-0 in the first round and can win Pool C with a win over Colombia on Sunday afternoon. Team USA fell to 1-1, and needs a win over Canada on Sunday night (and possibly some help) to advance to the second round.
By Eric Stephen