Ortiz hits third HR of tournament as Dominicans roll

Updated: March 14, 2006, 1:50 AM ET
Associated Press


SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- On a day when opponents of Fidel Castro caused turmoil in and above the stands, David Ortiz powered the Dominican Republic to a key victory over Cuba.

Ortiz hit his third home run of the tournament and walked with the bases loaded in a 7-3 victory Monday that kept alive the Dominicans' hopes of advancing to the World Baseball Classic semifinals.

A group of fans caused a scuffle at Hiram Bithorn Stadium, spelling "Abajo Fidel [Down With Fidel]" with the letters on their shirts.

The fans also had a small sign with the same message about the Cuban president, as did an airplane pulling a sign over that appeared over the ballpark.

Tournament organizers banned signs with political messages to comply with an agreement made with Cuba for the team's participation in the Classic.

Other spectators chanted "Fuera! [Take them out!]" and security guards took the sign away and asked the fans with the anti-Castro message to change shirts or leave the ballpark. The anti-Castro fans wore two shirts to hide the letters when they entered the stadium, and they put their second shirts back on after an inning-long confrontation in the fifth.

During last Thursday's game between Cuba and the Netherlands, a spectator behind home plate raised a sign saying: "Down with Fidel." Angel Iglesias, vice president of Cuba's National Institute of Sports, rushed to confront the man. Puerto Rican police intervened and took Iglesias to a police station and lectured him about free speech.

After Venezuela beat the Dominican Republic 6-0 on Monday night, all the teams in Group Two have 1-1 records. Venezuela plays the Dominican Republic on Tuesday night and Cuba meets Puerto Rico on Wednesday. The winners will advance to the semifinals.

"I think we could play a lot better than what we played," Dominican manager Manny Acta said. "I think we should have scored at least 12 runs."

The Dominican Republic led 7-0 after six innings in this one, then coasted. Starter Odalis Perez (2-0) struck out three in 4 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing three hits and one walk.

Winning "was very important because I understand if we would have lost today, we would have gone home tomorrow ... if we can go back out tomorrow and we can score at least eight or nine runs, we might go to the final," Perez said.

Miguel Tejada hit a go-ahead, two-run double in a four-run third, chasing starter Vicyohandry Odelin (0-1). Yadier Pedroso relieved, walked Albert Pujols, then retired Ortiz on a flyout as Tejada moved to third.

Moises Alou followed with a grounder to third that should have ended the inning, but Michel Enriquez threw wildly to first as Tejada and Pujols scored for a 4-0 lead.

An error by first baseman Ariel Borrero on Placido Polanco's grounder allowed another run to score in the fourth, and Ortiz hit a no-doubt homer off Yonder Martinez in the fifth, flipping his bat as soon as he finished his followthrough. Norberto Gonzalez relieved with the bases loaded in the sixth and walked Ortiz on a 3-1 pitch.

"All I tried to do was make the routine plays and get on base for the big guys," Polanco said.

Yuliesky Gourriel homered in the seventh off Jorge Sosa. After Cuba scored twice in the ninth on right fielder Juan Encarnacion's error and Alexei Ramirez's RBI single, Fernando Rodney relieved with two on and one out.

He struck out Eduardo Paret, loaded the bases with a walk to Enriquez, then struck out Joan Pedroso on a checked swing.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press