Puerto Rico 4, Cuba 3
Javier Vazquez matches up against Livan Hernandez, but Carlos Beltran emerges the hero by hitting two home runs and making two diving catches in the outfield, including a game-saving grab in the bottom of the ninth with two runners on base.

Venezuela 7, Japan 2
Freddy Garcia and two relievers combine for a five-hitter while Miguel Cabrera and Bobby Abreu each hit two-run homers.

Semifinals

Dominican Republic 10, Puerto Rico 9
The Dominicans bypass Pedro Martinez in favor of Bartolo Colon, and while he gets roughed up by Carlos Delgado's two home runs, the Dominicans rally against Puerto Rico's thin pitching staff. Trailing 9-7 in the ninth, the DR wins with Sammy Sosa's two-out, two-run double off J.C. Romero.

Venezuela 1, United States 0
Johan Santana squares off against Randy Johnson -- U.S. skipper Joe Torre opted to hold Roger Clemens for the gold-medal game -- and shuts down the potent U.S. lineup with a four-hit, 13-strikeout performance. Johnson fans 14 and allows only one hit, but it was a long homer from national hero Andres Galarraga.

Championship

Dominican Republic 5, Venezuela 4
Pedro Martinez vs. Carlos Zambrano. Pedro fans the first nine batters he faces, but tires by the fifth as Cabrera and Victor Martinez hit home runs for a 2-0 lead. The DR rallies for a 3-2 lead in the seventh as Tejada, Pujols and Ortiz hit consecutive home runs. Pedro's pitch counts reaches 150 by the ninth, but he stays in the game ... and Venezuela takes the lead on Melvin Mora's two-run triple with two outs.

In the bottom of the ninth, Francisco Rodriguez enters for Venezuela. With two outs, Tejada singles and Pujols doubles to put runners on second and third. Ortiz is intentionally walked. Rafael Furcal pinch-runs for Pujols. K-Rod gets ahead of Vlad Guerrero with two nasty, unhittable 95-mph sliders. He throws another in the dirt, it bounces in front of the plate, Guerrero somehow gets his bat on the ball and drills a base hit to center field to score one run as Abreu, owner of one of baseball's strongest arms, fields it cleanly and fires home, Furcal slides in ... just ahead of the tag, and the Dominican Republic wins the first World Cup tournament.


Hmm. I don't know about all of you, but I'm thinking this thing could be pretty cool.

David Schoenfield last wrote about April baseball for Page 2.



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WORLD CUP DREAMS