Venezuela 5


United States 3


6:30 PM ET, March 11, 2009

123456789 R H E
VEN 001012100 5 12 1
USA 000100020 3 7 0
W:J. Granado (1-0)
L:J. Guthrie (0-1)
SV:F. Rodriguez (1)

Venezuela avenges loss to U.S. in second meeting

Associated Press

TORONTO -- Francisco Rodriguez loves pitching for his country.

Henry Blanco homered and made a key throw in the ninth inning to help Rodriguez earn the save as Venezuela beat the United States 5-3 on Wednesday night to win Group C at the World Baseball Classic.

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"For some reason I feel like right now I'm at another level," said Rodriguez, who signed a $37 million, three-year contract with the New York Mets this offseason. "Just to be able to wear a Venezuelan jersey, it's totally different for some reason. I don't know why, but it's totally different to be able to play with your country.

"I'm not saying I give it more [effort], I just feel more adrenaline, more pressure," he added. "There's no question about it. Don't get me wrong. Every time I wear a different jersey I take it with a lot of pride, but today was something really special."

Gregor Blanco added three hits for Venezuela, which avenged a 15-6 loss to the Americans on Sunday night.

"It's a big deal for us, beating the United States, because they're one of the greatest teams in the world," he said. "We showed them we can play baseball, too. We showed them we can win games."

Both teams are headed to the second round of the tournament in Miami, where the U.S. will open against Group D winner Puerto Rico (3-0) on Saturday night.

Venezuela will face a surprising Netherlands team earlier in the day.

The matchup with Puerto Rico will reunite Derek Jeter with former Yankees teammate Bernie Williams.

Fast Facts

• Gregor and Henry Blanco combined for six hits -- including two doubles, a triple and a home run -- as Venezuela avenged an earlier 15-6 loss to the United States and won Pool C.

• The Americans finished Round 1 with a 2-1 record and a second-place finish in Pool C. They will play Pool D winner Puerto Rico in Round 2 on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET.

• Francisco Rodriguez pitched a scoreless ninth inning and struck out Kevin Youkilis to end the game and earn his first save of the tournament.

-- ESPN research

"It's going to be fun," Jeter said. "I'm sure I'll mess with him a little bit. He worked out with [the Yankees] in Tampa before we left. It's always good to see Bernie."

Chris Iannetta hit a two-run homer in the eighth inning but Team USA couldn't finish the comeback in the ninth.

Jimmy Rollins walked and Jeter reached on a one-out error by third baseman Luis Maza. With cleanup hitter Kevin Youkilis at the plate, the United States tried a double steal and Blanco's strong throw cut down Jeter -- the trail runner -- at second base.

"It was a perfect throw but I can't get thrown out in that situation, not the tying run," Jeter said. "We tried to be aggressive. I had an idea that Jimmy was going to go. That can't happen, whether it was a perfect throw or not."

Rodriguez closed it out on the next pitch by striking out Youkilis.

"It was fun, the adrenaline was going 100 percent," Rodriguez said.

Victor Zambrano allowed one run and three hits in 3 2/3 innings to earn the win before a crowd of 12,358. He walked two and struck out one.

Venezuela's bullpen was tagged for 13 runs over five inning in Sunday's rout by the U.S. but redeemed itself in this one, with five relievers combining to allow two runs in six innings of work.

"There's a lot of guys there that have never played in the major leagues, there's a lot of guys there that don't even have a job right now," Gregor Blanco said. "They never played in a ballpark like this, they never played against Derek Jeter or Pedroia or Chipper Jones, those guys."

Baltimore right-hander Jeremy Guthrie was the loser, giving up four runs and seven hits in two-plus innings. He walked two and struck out two.

Venezuela opened the scoring in the third when Henry Blanco, a veteran backup catcher now with the San Diego Padres, led off with a homer to left off Ted Lilly, the U.S. starter.

Team USA tied it in the fourth. Jeter singled, went to second on Adam Dunn's walk and scored on Ryan Braun's double down the first-base line.

Venezuela reclaimed the lead in the fifth against Guthrie. Henry Blanco doubled and scored on Gregor Blanco's triple to center.

Guthrie was tagged for two more in the sixth. Miguel Cabrera led off with a double, Magglio Ordonez walked and Marco Scutaro hit a two-run single.

Venezuela chased Guthrie in the seventh when Cesar Izturis doubled, went to third on Gregor Blanco's single and scored on a base hit by Melvin Mora.

Lilly allowed one run and three hits in three innings, walked none and struck out two.

Game notes
Jones took swings from both sides of the plate and fielded grounders before the game and declared himself fit to play in the second round. Jones left Sunday's game with a strain in his right side. ... Wednesday was Bobby Abreu's 35th birthday. The Venezuela team celebrated with a baseball-themed cake in the clubhouse and fans sang "Happy Birthday" in Spanish during his first at-bat. ... Upset at what he felt was negative media coverage at home, Venezuela manager Luis Sojo sent word through a team official that he would not speak with reporters before the game.


Game Information

Game Time: 3:08
Weather: indoors
Umpires: Home Plate - Dan Iassogna, First Base - Carlos Rey, Second Base - Jerry Meals, Third Base - Minoru Nakamura