Beltre, Pujols, Alou power Dominican past Italy


KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Manny Acta smiled at the thought: The Dominican Republic is unbeaten in the first round of the World Baseball Classic and still hasn't put its best lineup on the field.

The manager hopes to get Vladimir Guerrero back for the next round, noting the Los Angeles Angels slugger can't help but give an already imposing team an even better chance of winning the tournament.

"You never have enough in baseball," Acta said after the Dominicans beat Italy 8-3 on Thursday to remain the only undefeated club in Pool D. "This is not the [Michael] Jordan Bulls against the Clippers. ... It's a very short tournament. Anything can happen, and we're not taking anything for granted."

Guerrero pulled out of the first round after three cousins died in a car crash back home. The Dominicans are also missing several other big names, including Manny Ramirez, Pedro Martinez and Alex Rodriguez, who decided to play for the United States.

Their absence, though, hasn't stopped Acta from filling out a lineup card full of All-Stars.

Adrian Beltre, playing third base with A-Rod out of the picture, homered for the third time in two games to pace Thursday's victory.
Albert Pujols and Moises Alou also homered to help the Dominicans improve to 2-0.

"We have been reacting well," Pujols said. "It doesn't matter if a guy's making $500,000 or $10 million or $5 million. Everybody is the same, and we know that we are here to win games and to represent our country."

Starting pitcher Odalis Perez gave up three early runs. But with a strong supporting cast that also includes David Ortiz, the Dominicans have didn't any problem coming from behind against loser Tony Fiore.

Pujols' two-run homer off Fiore put his team ahead for good in the third inning. Beltre, who has eight RBI in two games, hit a three-run shot off Italian League pitcher Riccardo De Santos in the fifth.

Alou added a solo homer off Alessandro Maestri in the seventh. Ortiz, the Boston Red Sox star who homered twice in a tournament-opening victory over Venezuela, was 0-for-2 with two walks.

"We played arguably one of the best-assembled teams in history, and we played them pretty tough -- made them earn it," Italy's Mike Piazza said. "Everyone played their hearts out."

A day after being limited to two hits in a 6-0 loss to Venezuela, Italy got to Perez for three runs and four hits in three innings. It was a nice start but not nearly enough damage to leave the powerful Dominican lineup in a hole.

A leadoff single and two throwing errors by Italy third baseman Mark Saccomanno led to a pair of first-inning runs. Pujols' first-pitch homer wiped out a 3-2 lead the Italians took on Frank Catalanotto's RBI double in the third.

Beltre homered twice and drove in five runs against Venezuela on Tuesday. His drive off De Santos broke open a 4-3 game and set off a wild celebration in the largely pro-Dominican crowd of 9,949.

Team Italy -- a collection of mostly American-born players like Piazza, Catalanotto and Frank Menechino -- finished the first round with consecutive losses after beating Australia 10-0 in its opener.

Still, the showing was better than expected for a team many believed would be one of the weaker clubs in the 16-nation field.

"We showed that we can play with the big boys," Italy manager Matt Galante said. "We gave it as good an effort as we possibly could."

The Dominicans, who rested shortstop Miguel Tejada and second baseman Alfonso Soriano, will close out the first round against Australia on Friday night.

Game notes
Piazza was 0-for-4, dropping to 1-for-11 in three games. ... Jose Reyes started in place of Tejada. ... Three Dominican pitchers -- Jorge Sosa, Salomon Torres and Fernando Rodney -- held Italy to one hit over the last six innings.