The Dominican Republic beat the United States 3-1 in Miami to earn a berth in the final round of the World Baseball Classic.

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MIAMI — Horns honked, percussion pulsed and school kids squealed. Miami can make quite a din when the Dominicans win.

The visiting team on the scoreboard, the Dominican Republic made itself at home by beating the United States 3-1 Thursday night to earn a berth in the final round of the World Baseball Classic.

Pinch-hitter Erick Aybar singled home Nelson Cruz with the go-ahead run in the ninth for the Dominicans, who improved to 5-0. They’re assured of a spot in the semifinals beginning Sunday in San Francisco, where two-time defending champion Japan and the Netherlands have already advanced.

The United States must now play Puerto Rico on Friday night, with the winner earning a trip to San Francisco and the loser being eliminated.

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Playing the U.S. team for the first time ever in the WBC, the Dominicans drew raucous support all night, especially in a noisy ninth.

The retractable roof at Marlins Park was closed, which reinforced the sound of the noisemakers favored by Dominican spectators. Their racket more than matched the cheers of U.S. fans in the crowd of 34,366.

“No doubt it’s the best atmosphere I ever played in,” said Cruz. “Thanks to the fans, we had extra motivation you don’t have every day.”

With the score 1-1, Nelson Cruz led off with a double against U.S. closer Craig Kimbrel, then took third on a ground out. Aybar singled sharply and ran to first with his index finger raised as his teammates poured out of the dugout to greet Cruz.

Until Aybar’s hit, the Dominicans were 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position.

Aybar then stole second and scored on a two-out single by Jose Reyes.

“They beat our closer,” U.S. manager Joe Torre said. “They beat a great one. You tip your hat to them.”

Former Miami Marlin Hanley Ramirez silenced jeers from the crowd with a home run in the second inning for the other Dominican run. Ramirez, traded by the Marlins during their dismal 2012 season, pulled a knuckler by R.A. Dickey into the beer garden to make the score 1-1.

Fernando Rodney, the fifth Dominican pitcher, threw a perfect ninth to complete a six-hitter.

With the final out, several Dominican teammates joined the Tampa Bay Rays’ closer in his familiar arrow-shooting ritual.


goes deep

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Matt Tuiasosopo, in his next at-bat after being hit by a pitch, hit a two-run homer for the Detroit Tigers in a 9-1 win over the New York Mets in Port St. Lucie, Fla.

Tuiasosopo, a former Mariner who is in camp on a minor-league deal, wasn’t originally scheduled to start the game. He replaced Prince Fielder, who was scratched after having a flat tire on the way to the game.

Manager Jim Leyland said he has been impressed with the 26-year-old Tuiasosopo, who starred at Woodinville High School.

“He started off slow, but he’s picked it up and done pretty well,” Leyland said. “He’s slung the ball pretty good recently, and he’s a versatile guy. He can also play the outfield, play first and third, and he’s a right-handed bat, so he’s kind of an interesting guy.”


• Cardinals manager Mike Matheny returned to the team in Florida after undergoing back surgery Monday in St. Louis.

• LHP Cole Hamels will make his first opening-day start for the Phillies. That will end a 10-year run for Phillies RHP Roy Halladay, the longest among active pitchers in the majors.

• Team Japan beat the World Series champion San Francisco Giants 6-3 in an exhibition game in Scottsdale, Ariz. On Friday, Japan plays the Cubs in Mesa, Ariz., before heading to San Francisco for the WBC semifinals Sunday night.

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