MIAMI -- He looked like a shortstop in right field.
Giancarlo Stanton dove to his backhand and stopped Nelson Cruz's liner from rolling to the wall in the ninth inning Thursday. Cruz in spite of Stanton popping up and making a strong throw made it comfortably to second.
He wouldn't stay there long.
Two batters later, Erick Aybar ripped an RBI-single to right that sent the Dominican Republic to a 3-1 win over Team USA in the World Baseball Classic at Marlins Park. The Dominicans spilled out their dugout a second time in the inning when Jose Reyes delivered another run-scoring single off Braves closer Craig Kimbrel, who took the loss after giving up three hits over two-thirds of an inning.
The outcome of Thursday's game, played in front of a rambunctious, pro-Dominican Republic crowd of 34,366, means Team USA will face Puerto Rico in an elimination game Friday night. The winner advances to the championship round starting Sunday in San Francisco, where the Dominican, Japan and the Kingdom of the Netherlands already have secured spots.
Team USA scored a run on three hits in the first before disappearing. Over the final eight innings, the offense totaled three singles and a walk. Relievers Kelvin Herrera, Octavio Dotel, Pedro Strop and Fernando Rodney combined on the final five scoreless innings.
Team USA got some exceptional relief work as well, including 1 1/3 scoreless innings from Marlins closer Steve Cishek. Manager Joe Torre intentionally walked Jose Reyes to put runners on first and second with two out in the seventh to set up the Cishek-Miguel Tejada matchup.
Tejada took a strike before bouncing one back to the mound. Cishek followed that up with a perfect eighth during which he struck out Robinson Cano and Hanley Ramirez. The inning-ending strikeout of his former teammate prompted an emphatic fist pump.
In four WBC appearances, Cishek has allowed a run on no hits with two strikeouts.
Cishek's performance Thursday prompted several tweets from Marlins teammates. Logan Morrison: "My boy @srSHREK31 was filthy tonight! DID YOU SEE THAT FIST PUMP!" Ryan Webb: "Where did you learn that fist pump @srSHREK31! That was awesome." And Tom Koehler: "@srSHREK31 that was straight filth. 2ks and a superb fist pump."
The lone run Team USA knuckleballer R.A. Dickey allowed was a tattooed Ramirez home run. With one out in the second, Ramirez tied it when he deposited the 2-1 offering into the Budweiser Bar high above left-center beyond the 427-foot marker.
According the @ESPNStatsInfo Twitter feed, Ramirez's blast had a true distance of 451 feet, making it the fourth-longest hit at Marlins Park since it opened last season. Stanton has accounted for the three longest shots hit here with true distances of 462, 458 and 456.
Ramirez can now boast two of the six farthest Marlins Park homers. Last April 15 he tagged a Wilton Lopez pitch 447 feet to straightaway center.
Dickey allowed just four other hits during his five-inning, four-strikeout, 82-pitch outing. He held the Dominicans hitless in four at-bats with runners in scoring position.
Dominican counterpart Samuel Deduno reached his pitch allotment after four innings. Of his 80 deliveries, 30 came during a first inning in which he gave up three singles and walked Eric Hosmer with the bases loaded.
Deduno settled over his final three innings, allowing two singles, walking one and striking out five, including four of the last five batters he faced. Seven of the 12 outs Deduno recorded came via strikeout.
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TEAM USA, DOMINICAN