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Dominican team's passion on display vs. Bucs

In final tuneup for WBC '17, DR's talented squad puts up 9-run inning
MLB.com

BRADENTON, Fla. -- The energy was there from the start. Players cheered in the dugout. Fans waved a flag down the first-base line. On the other side of LECOM Park, a small percussion section played drums and shakers.

"That's our culture," manager Tony Pena said. "If you never have been in the Dominican Republic, you don't know. We play with heart. We feel the game, and we enjoy our game."

BRADENTON, Fla. -- The energy was there from the start. Players cheered in the dugout. Fans waved a flag down the first-base line. On the other side of LECOM Park, a small percussion section played drums and shakers.

"That's our culture," manager Tony Pena said. "If you never have been in the Dominican Republic, you don't know. We play with heart. We feel the game, and we enjoy our game."

The other defining trait of this Dominican Republic World Baseball Classic team was on display later Wednesday afternoon, when they pounded out nine runs in the sixth inning, en route to a 10-6 exhibition win over the Pirates.

:: 2017 World Baseball Classic ::

"On paper, we have a really good lineup," Pena said.

Among the favorites in this year's World Baseball Classic, the Dominican Republic features a lineup full of All-Stars. They looked ready to go in their final tuneup against the Pirates, racking up 13 hits and eight walks.

On Wednesday, the Dominican lineup included Carlos Santana at first base, Robinson Cano at second, Manny Machado batting third and Jean Segura at shortstop. Nelson Cruz served as the designated hitter, leaving three outfield spots for Jose Bautista (left), Starling Marte (center) and Gregory Polanco (right).

"We are very confident," Polanco said. "It feels good to be with your people and those stars like Cano, Jose Reyes and those guys. That feels great to be with them."

Complete World Baseball Classic coverage

When the Dominican team opens pool play Thursday against Canada at Marlins Park (6 p.m. ET on MLB.TV and MLB Network), Pena should be able to write Adrian Beltre's name into the lineup, further deepening an already formidable group.

Pena said the Dominican team will start Cardinals right-hander Carlos Martinez against Canada on Thursday with Edinson Volquez lined up to face Team USA on Saturday and right-hander Wily Peralta set for Sunday's matchup with Colombia.

"There's a lot of things that went through my mind," Pena said. "I just wanted to make sure that I have the experienced guy against the U.S."

It might not matter who's on the mound if the Dominican lineup puts together more innings like the sixth on Wednesday. Facing top prospect Tyler Glasnow, the powerful group showed patience. Cano walked, Machado singled then Bautista and Cruz drew back-to-back walks, forcing in Cano.

Three singles, two walks and an RBI groundout later, Machado punctuated the inning with a two-run homer onto the boardwalk in right-center field.

This was just a tuneup before the real action begins, but it was a reminder -- on the field, in the dugout and in the stands -- of why the Dominican always fields a team worth watching in the World Baseball Classic.

"In the last tournament, they saw everybody laughing, they saw everybody singing, they saw everybody dancing. But [it's] a good dance, a good laugh, people that care," Pena said. "We score a run, you see the whole ballclub going out because we care.

"We love this game. We love the game so much that we go out and give everything we have. That's what you're going to see with this group of men also."

The World Baseball Classic runs through March 22. In the U.S., games air live exclusively in English on MLB Network and on an authenticated basis via MLBNetwork.com/watch, while ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN provide the exclusive Spanish-language coverage. MLB.TV Premium subscribers in the U.S. have access to watch every tournament game live on any of the streaming service's 400-plus supported devices. The tournament is being distributed internationally across all forms of television, internet, mobile and radio in territories excluding the U.S., Puerto Rico and Japan. Get tickets for games at Marlins Park, Tokyo Dome, Estadio Charros de Jalisco in Mexico, Petco Park, as well as the Championship Round at Dodger Stadium, while complete coverage -- including schedules, video, stats and gear -- is available at WorldBaseballClassic.com.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, read his blog and listen to his podcast.

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