Horns honked, percussion pulsed, and school kids squealed. Miami can make quite a din when the Dominicans win.
The visiting team on the scoreboard, the Dominican Republic made itself at home by beating the United States, 3-1, Thursday night to earn a berth in the final round of the World Baseball Classic.
Pinch hitter Erick Aybar singled home Nelson Cruz with the go-ahead run in the ninth for the Dominicans, who improved to 5-0. The Dominican Republic is assured of a spot in the semifinals beginning Sunday in San Francisco, where two-time defending champion Japan and the Netherlands have already advanced.
The United States must now face Puerto Rico Friday night, with the winner earning a trip to San Francisco and the loser being eliminated. Ryan Vogelsong will pitch for the Americans against Nelson Figueroa.
Playing the US team for the first time ever in the WBC, the Dominicans drew raucous support all night, especially in a noisy ninth.
‘‘No doubt it’s the best atmosphere I ever played in,’’ said Cruz, who has twice reached the World Series. ‘‘Thanks to the fans, we had extra motivation you don’t have every day.’’
With the score 1-all, Cruz led off with a double against Craig Kimbrel (0-1), then took third on a ground out. Aybar singled sharply and ran to first with his index finger raised as his teammates poured out of the dugout to greet Cruz crossing the plate.
Until Aybar’s hit, the Dominicans were 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position.
Aybar stole second and scored on a two-out single by Jose Reyes.
‘‘They beat our closer,’’ US manager Joe Torre said. ‘‘They beat a great one. You tip your hat to them.’’
Lee declines NY offer
The Yankees will have to look elsewhere to fill the hole left at first base by the injured Mark Teixeira. As reported by Yahoo’s Tim Brown, Derrek Lee declined the Bombers’ offer to suit up for the 2013 season.
The 37-year-old Lee split 2011, the last of his 15 career seasons, with the Orioles and Pirates. He posted a combined .267/.325/.446 line with 59 RBIs and 19 home runs. The two-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner has 331 homers and a .281 average over his time with the Padres, Marlins, Cubs, Braves, Orioles, and Pirates.
Another option is moving Kevin Youkilis to first.
Jays crush Yankees
In an exhibition in Dunedin, Fla., the Blue Jays rolled up a 15-1 lead after two innings and steamrolled the Yankees, 17-5. Maicer Izturis had five RBIs and Melky Cabrera four, and Josh Johnson allowed one run over three innings. ‘‘It was a tough game to watch,’’ Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. ‘‘We walked 10 guys, nine in the first two innings. There weren’t a lot of great things to watch today.’’ . . . Yankees righthander Phil Hughes threw 26 pitches in Tampa during his first batting practice session since hurting his upper back Feb. 18 during a defensive drill. He is set to pitch Monday in a simulated game. ‘‘No physical issues,’’ Hughes said. “A good first step.’’ Lefthander CC Sabathia, who had offseason surgery on his pitching elbow to remove a bone spur, will make his first spring training start on Friday against the Marlins.
Manuel wants to stay
Charlie Manuel, who is in the final season of his contract with the Phillies, made it clear he wants to continue as manager beyond this year. Retirement hasn’t entered his mind. “I'm not ready to get out of the game,’’ said Manuel, 69, who enters his ninth season with the team with a franchise-record 727 wins . . . The Phillies announced that Cole Hamels will be their Opening Day starter, the first such honor for the lefthander . . . Mike Trout led off the bottom of the first with his first homer as the Angels rolled to a 12-4 exhibition win over the White Sox in Tempe, Ariz.