Highlighted by a two-run homer by catcher Welington Castillo, the Dominican Republic broke a scoreless tie with four second-inning runs off Canada starter Ryan Dempster en route to a 9-2 victory. Employing all nine hitters in its lineup during the frame, the Dominicans showed off the frightening power that helped them put together an undefeated run to the 2013 World Baseball Classic title. They will take the field next against Team USA on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. ET in a game that can be seen live on MLB.TV and MLB Network.
"Our team did a good job in being aggressive, but at the same time selective," Dominican Republic manager Tony Pena said. "And when this team has the lead, everyone knows the type of bullpen that we have. We can close out the game."
Castillo, a free-agent signing of the Orioles playing in his first Classic, debuted with a bang. The catcher's second career home run at Marlins Park was a certified barrel, according to Statcast™, with a 100.5-mph exit velocity and 30-degree launch angle. Only eight right-handed hitters had hit opposite-field home runs at cavernous Marlins Park during the 2016 season, as Castillo did Thursday. Coincidentally, Castillo was one of them, blasting an opposite-field homer as a member of the D-backs off the Marlins' Justin Nicolino last May. Only five of Castillo's 60 career home runs in the Major Leagues have gone the opposite way.
The rally began with a sharp double to the gap by Dominican Republic right fielder Nelson Cruz, who then advanced to third on a fielder's choice ground ball hit by designated hitter Adrian Beltre. Gregory Polanco, starting in center field in place of Pirates teammate Starling Marte, singled back up the middle to bring Cruz home for the game's first run.
Castillo followed with his homer, but the Dominican Republic kept rolling after that. Shortstop Jose Reyes picked up his second hit of the game with a single, and second baseman Robinson Cano followed with a single of his own after a popout by Manny Machado. Left fielder Jose Bautista then upped his team's lead to 4-0 with an RBI single before first baseman Carlos Santana -- the Dominicans' ninth batter of the inning -- flied out to retire the side.
The Dominicans' four-run rally did more than establish an early lead -- it also knocked out Dempster after just two innings and 49 pitches. By finishing under 50 pitches, Dempster -- who hadn't faced Major League competition since Game 1 of the 2013 World Series -- can now come back and pitch later on in the first round.
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.