- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 12, 2009

From combined dispatches

VENEZUELA 5, UNITED STATES 3: Henry Blanco homered and made a key throw in the ninth inning as Venezuela beat the United States on Wednesday night in Toronto to win Group C at the World Baseball Classic.

Gregor Blanco added three hits for Venezuela, which avenged a 15-6 loss to the Americans on Sunday night. Both teams are headed to the second round of the tournament in Miami, where the United States will open against Group D winner Puerto Rico on Saturday night.

Venezuela will face a surprising Netherlands team earlier in the day.

Chris Iannetta hit a two-run homer in the eighth inning, but Team USA couldn’t finish the comeback in the ninth.

Jimmy Rollins walked and Derek Jeter reached on a one-out error by third baseman Luis Maza. With cleanup hitter Kevin Youkilis at the plate, the United States tried a double steal and Blanco’s strong throw cut down Jeter - the trail runner - at second base.

Francisco Rodriguez wrapped up the save by striking out Youkilis.

Victor Zambrano allowed one run and three hits in 3 2/3 innings to earn the win before a crowd of 12,358. He walked two and struck out one.

Venezuela’s bullpen was tagged for 13 runs over five inning in Sunday’s rout by the United States but redeemed itself in this one, with five relievers combining to allow two runs in six innings of work.

Baltimore right-hander Jeremy Guthrie was the loser, giving up four runs and seven hits in two-plus innings. He walked two and struck out two.

Venezuela opened the scoring in the third when Henry Blanco, a veteran backup catcher now with the San Diego Padres, led off with a homer to left off Ted Lilly, the U.S. starter.

Team USA tied it in the fourth. Jeter singled, went to second on Adam Dunn’s walk and scored on Ryan Braun’s double down the first-base line.

Venezuela reclaimed the lead in the fifth against Guthrie. Henry Blanco doubled and scored on Gregor Blanco’s triple to center.

Guthrie was tagged for two more in the sixth. Miguel Cabrera led off with a double, Magglio Ordonez walked and was replaced by pinch runner Endy Chavez and Marco Scutaro drove in both with a single.

Venezuela chased Guthrie in the seventh when Cesar Izturis doubled, went to third on Gregor Blanco’s single and scored on a base hit by Melvin Mora.

PUERTO RICO 5, NETHERLANDS 0: Alex Rios hit an RBI triple, and Puerto Rico beat the Netherlands in San Juan to finish undefeated in the first round.

Carlos Beltran, Ivan Rodriguez and Geovany Soto each drove in a run for Puerto Rico (3-0), which won Group D and will face the United States in their second-round opener Saturday night in Miami.

It was the second win for Puerto Rico over a scrappy Dutch squad, which earlier eliminated the star-laden Dominican Republic with a pair of stunning upsets. The Netherlands is also headed to the second round in Miami, where it will play Venezuela on Saturday.

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