- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 14, 2009

MIAMI (AP) - Three hits were all Venezuela could muster against the Netherlands.

It was a good thing it made them count.

Miguel Cabrera and Jose Lopez each had solo home runs, powering Venezuela to a 3-1 win over the Netherlands in the second round of the World Baseball Classic on Saturday.

In his first game back at Dolphin Stadium, Cabrera reached back to his Florida Marlins’ days with a line drive over the left-center field wall in the fourth that gave Venezuela the lead for good and sent fans of the red, yellow and blue into a flag-waving frenzy. Cabrera took his familiar slow walk down the first-base line, watching his ball sail over the scoreboard.

“It was very special to come back to Miami, my old home,” Cabrera said. “I’m glad I got a home run and helped our team win the game.”

Carlos Silva allowed one run and four hits in seven innings, and Lopez’s homer in the eighth gave Venezuela all the cushion it needed.

Venezuela will play the winner of Saturday night’s game between the United States and Puerto Rico on Monday for a chance to clinch a spot in the finals in Los Angeles. The Netherlands will play the loser in an elimination game Sunday.

The Netherlands were fueled again by strong pitching and defense and forced its opponent to make plays. It was the same formula that helped the Netherlands advance to the second round of the WBC by ousting the star-studded Dominican Republic with a pair of stunning upsets, including a 3-2, 11-inning elimination game win.

But the Dutch wasted plenty of opportunities against Venezuela.

After putting runners on first and second with one out in the eighth, the Netherlands went cold. Eugene Kingsdale popped out, and closer Francisco Rodriguez came in to get Adriana Sharnol to ground out to end the inning _ and any hopes of another Netherlands upset.

Getting four outs is a rarity for Rodriguez, the new New York Mets closer, but it’s something he said he can do when called upon.

“I had no scouting report,” Rodriguez said. “I was getting ahead of them, and after that everything changed.”

Yurendell DeCaster tried to score from first on a double by Bryan Engelhardt in the second inning but misread the ball, getting off to a slow start, and was thrown out at home by Cesar Izturis. Vince Rooi singled on the next pitch to tie it at 1.

“We were just trying to be aggressive,” Netherlands manager Rod Delmonico said. “Sometimes that happens in baseball. Probably if we had to do it over again he wouldn’t send him.”

The Dutch also wasted a strong pitching effort by Sidney Ponson, who allowed two runs and two hits in five innings against a potent Venezuelan team.

“I’m kind of (ticked) off because I made two bad mistakes and it cost us some runs,” Ponson said.

It was the power _ or lack thereof _ that was the difference. Venezuela only had three hits _ two homers and a triple _ and the Netherlands’ only extra-base hit was a double.

Cabrera’s second homer of the tournament got the lead back for Venezuela in the fourth. He played five seasons for the Florida Marlins, helping them win the 2003 World Series over the New York Yankees, before being traded to Detroit in December 2007.

Cabrera and Venezuela had a slew of supporters in this one.

The stadium’s orange seats looked perfectly made for Dutch fans, though the few hundred in attendance were easily drowned out. The gate attendance of 17,345 were mostly flag-waving, drum-beating, horn-blaring Venezuelans who provided energy rarely seen at afternoon baseball games at the Marlins’ home.

And they got started early when Endy Chavez led off the game with a triple into right-center field. He scored a batter later on Melvin Mora’s groundout.

Perhaps the only one who didn’t have a good homecoming was Magglio Ordonez.

The strong contingency of Venezuelan fans booed their own left fielder each time his name was announced. Ordonez is a supporter of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, and most Venezuelans in South Florida despise Chavez and his socialist beliefs.

“I don’t worry about things like that,” Ordonez said. “Politics and baseball don’t mix.”

Notes:@ There were dozens of Dominican Republic fans in attendance sporting their country’s flag. The Dominicans, which have a large South Florida following, were expected to contend in Miami but were eliminated by the Netherlands in the first round in Puerto Rico. … The public address system was announced in English then Spanish.

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