Ex-Cats pitcher to start for U.S.

Published: Tuesday, Mar. 12, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 3C
Last Modified: Tuesday, Mar. 12, 2013 - 7:43 pm

MIAMI – Gio Gonzalez munched on chicken wings and shrimp scampi at a sports bar in his hometown as he watched Team USA rally to stay alive in the World Baseball Classic.

He'll take in the next game from the mound. The Washington Nationals left-hander, formerly with the A's and River Cats, will start for the United States in its opener of Round 2 tonight against Puerto Rico.

The U.S. team rallied with seven runs in the last two innings Sunday to advance by beating Canada 9-4 in Phoenix.

Gonzalez wasn't with the team in Arizona. He left the Nationals' camp in central Florida before the U.S. game Sunday to make the three-hour drive south.

"I was so confident they were going to win," he said. "I was ready to go."

Gonzalez grew up in Hialeah, a short drive from Marlins Park, the site of the second round.

"To be a small town kid from Hialeah, Fla., pitching in Miami and representing Team USA, that says it all," he said. "It's a kid's dream. Don't pinch me. I don't want to wake up."

The second round will start with a split doubleheader today. The Dominican Republic will face Italy in an afternoon game, followed by Team USA against Puerto Rico.

"At this point, you're getting the cream," U.S. manager Joe Torre said. "They've all gotten through the first round."

Netherlands 7, Cuba 6 in Tokyo – Kalian Sams' ninth-inning sacrifice fly scored Andruw Jones with the winning run, capping a comeback from a two-run, eighth-inning deficit and lifting the Netherlands into the semifinals.

The Netherlands, the first European team to reach the final four, advanced with two-time defending champion Japan.

They will be joined by two teams from among the United States, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Italy on March 17-19 at AT&T Park in San Francisco.

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