- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 15, 2009

MIAMI (AP) - Baseball looked more like America’s national pastime Sunday night.

Team USA avoided elimination from the World Baseball Classic, beating the Netherlands 9-3 to ease the sting of a drubbing endured against Puerto Rico the night before.

Jimmy Rollins drove in four runs with a homer, triple and sacrifice fly, and Team USA newcomer Brian Roberts went 3-for-3 with two walks, two runs and two RBIs. Roy Oswalt pitched four scoreless innings, then six relievers completed a 12-hitter.

Even with a six-run lead in the eighth, the Americans remained feisty. Matt Lindstrom gave up a leadoff homer to Bryan Engelhardt, who took a long look at his prodigious drive before jogging around the bases. When Lindstrom’s next pitch sailed behind Vince Rooi, Dutch players took several steps onto the field as they yelled angrily at the pitcher.

Lindstrom retired Rooi, faced three more batters and left the game with a stiff pitching shoulder. He was scheduled for an MRI exam Monday.

Left fielder Ryan Braun departed in the ninth with a sore left side.

Few fans were on hand to witness the Americans’ turnaround. With a crowd of 11,059, the game had the atmosphere of a matchup between the Marlins and Nationals.

Still one loss from elimination, the United States will play Tuesday night against the loser of Monday night’s game between Puerto Rico and Venezuela. Left-hander Ted Lilly is slated to pitch for the Americans. If they win, they’ll advance to the semifinals next weekend in Los Angeles.

The Dutch were eliminated. Despite a roster sprinkled with minor league prospects, they became the surprise team of the tournament when they beat the Dominican Republic twice in the opening round.

The Americans bounced back from a loss Saturday that triggered the mercy rule when they fell 10 runs behind, ending their game against Puerto Rico in the seventh inning.

The rout left Team USA with an ERA of 7.22, but Oswalt and the bullpen shut down the Netherlands.

Oswalt (1-0) left with a 6-0 lead. He allowed five hits but struck out five and escaped a bases-loaded jam in the third. LaTroy Hawkins, Scot Shields and Jonathan Broxton each pitched one scoreless inning.

Adam Dunn hit his third homer of the tournament, and Roberts sparked the offense only hours after joining the team as a replacement for second baseman Dustin Pedroia, sidelined by an abdominal injury.

The injury-plagued Americans also lost Chipper Jones for the rest of the tournament. He was scratched from the designated hitter spot before the game after he aggravated a strain in his right side.

The Netherlands contributed the defensive gem of the game. With the bases loaded, first baseman Randall Simon fielded a grounder to his right. Spinning as he fell onto his back, he threw a three-hopper to the plate for a forceout and a place in the WBC highlight reel.

Marlins right-hander Rick VandenHurk (0-1), pitching in his home ballpark as the Dutch starter, lasted only two innings and allowed three runs, one earned.

Roberts singled in the first and scored the Americans’ first run on a sacrifice fly by David Wright. Team USA added two unearned runs in the second when right fielder Dirk Van’t Klooster dropped a two-out fly for a two-base error and Rollins homered.

Rollins and Roberts hit back-to-back RBI triples in the fourth. Roberts, needing a home run to complete the cycle, walked with the bases loaded in the fifth and walked again in the seventh.

Team USA led 8-0 before Yurendell DeCaster doubled in the Netherlands’ first run in the seventh.

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