Defense lets down US in WBC loss

MIAMI — Team USA manager Davey Johnson was right to have reservations about playing Adam Dunn at first base.

The desperation defensive deployment backfired Wednesday night in the World Baseball Classic when Dunn made a wild throw that led to four unearned runs, and Venezuela won Group 2 by beating the Americans 10-6 to conclude second-round play in Miami.

Both teams had already qualified for the semifinals this weekend in Los Angeles. Injury-plagued Team USA is expected to make several roster moves before then.

First baseman and cleanup hitter Kevin Youkilis was ruled out for the rest of the tournament Wednesday because of mild ankle and foot injuries. The only first baseman on the list of potential roster replacements — Derrek Lee of the Chicago Cubs — has been hampered by a sore thigh.

"We really don't have a first baseman to go to, and that creates a problem," Johnson said. "There are not really any good options."

Four other Americans have been sidelined by injuries since the start of round two, and there was concern in the U.S. dugout when third baseman David Wright fouled a ball off his foot in the first inning.

Wright cracked his left big toenail and hobbled through the rest of the game, in part because the only available position player on the bench was catcher Brian McCann. X-rays were negative, and Wright said he's certain he'll be able to play in the semifinals.

"We've got to stop getting hurt," Wright said with a smile, referring to the wave of injuries. "A lot of this from what I see is stuff that, if it's in the middle of the season, you can play through. But obviously the teams want to take every precautionary measure to make sure you're ready to go the first week in April."

The WBC semifinals begin Saturday, when Venezuela will play the second-seeded team from Group 1 at Dodger Stadium. The Americans play in the other semifinal Sunday.

"I can't wait," Wright said. "Making it to the final four has been our goal."

Japan joins South Korea, Venezuela and the United States in the semifinals. Japan will play Korea on Thursday night at Petco Park to determine the seedings from Group 1. The loser will play Venezuela on Saturday while the winner will play the United States on Sunday.

The Americans qualified for the semifinals for the first time by scoring three runs in the ninth inning Tuesday night to beat Puerto Rico 6-5, but they failed to come up with much of an encore.

"After Tuesday night, anything was going to be a letdown," left fielder Mark DeRosa said. "That was one of the great moments in a lot of guys' careers."

The bid for another comeback fell short after Venezuela scored six runs in the second inning with the help of Dunn's error. Johnson would prefer to keep Dunn in the outfield, but with Youkilis out, there was no better option at first base.

With runners at the corners in the second inning, Dunn charged a chopper and made a throw home that sailed 10 feet wide of the catcher. Before the inning ended, Henry Blanco hit a two-run double off former Ashland High star Jeremy Guthrie (0-2), and Jose Lopez and Miguel Cabrera each doubled home a run.

Cabrera finished with three hits and two RBIs. Three pitchers shut out the Americans after they cut the margin to 7-6 in the sixth inning. "This team is doing a lot of small things to win games," Venezuela manager Luis Sojo said. "There is a different star every single day."

Team USA's pitching staff looked spring-training rusty. Seven pitchers gave up 15 hits, including a three-run homer by Max Ramirez.

"Our pitchers are still behind," Johnson said. "That's my main concern right now."

Team USA had 12 hits, including a two-run homer by DeRosa, but stranded 11 runners.

The weather was as bad as the pitching. Rain delayed the start for more than an hour and fell during much of the game.

The conditions did little to quiet the crowd of 16,575, with Venezuela fans again chanting, pounding drums and booing Magglio Ordonez. Many Venezuelans dislike their left fielder because he supports the country's president, Hugo Chavez.

Guthrie lasted only 1 2-3 innings and gave up seven hits, including three doubles. He left trailing 6-1, but only two of the runs were earned.

Venezuela starter Armando Galarraga (1-0) allowed eight hits and three runs, two earned, in 3 1-3 innings.

Team USA fell to 1-2 against Venezuela. The teams could meet again for the championship Monday.


RHP Jake Peavy will start the first game in Los Angeles for Team USA. RHP Carlos Silva will start Venezuela's first game. ... Team USA's Brian Roberts went 2-for-4 and is 6-for-11 in the tournament.

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