On a day when opponents of Fidel Castro caused turmoil in and above the stands, David Ortiz powered the Dominican Republic to a key victory over Cuba in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Red Sox slugger Ortiz hit his third home run of the tournament and walked with the bases loaded in a 7-3 victory yesterday that kept alive the Dominicans' hopes of advancing to the World Baseball Classic semifinals.
Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Cuba and the Dominican Republic are now tied with a 1-1 record.
Venezuela plays the Dominican Republic tonight and Cuba meets Puerto Rico tomorrow. The winners advance to the semifinals.
A group of fans caused a scuffle at Hiram Bithorn Stadium, spelling ''Abajo Fidel [Down With Fidel]" with the letters on their shirts.
The fans also had a small sign with the same message about the Cuban president, as did an airplane pulling a sign that appeared over the ballpark.
Tournament organizers banned signs with political messages to comply with an agreement made with Cuba for the team's participation in the Classic.
Other spectators chanted ''Fuera! [Take them out!]" and security guards took the sign away and asked the fans with the anti-Castro message to change shirts or leave the ballpark. The anti-Castro fans wore two shirts to hide the letters when they entered the stadium, and they put their second shirts back on after an inning-long confrontation in the fifth.
''I think we could play a lot better than what we played," Dominican manager Manny Acta said. ''I think we should have scored at least 12 runs."
The Dominican Republic led, 7-0, after six innings, then coasted. Starter Odalis Perez (2-0) struck out three in 4 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing three hits and one walk.
Miguel Tejada hit a go-ahead, two-run double in a four-run third, chasing starter Vicyohandry Odelin (0-1). Yadier Pedroso relieved, walked Albert Pujols, then retired Ortiz on a flyout as Tejada moved to third.
Moises Alou followed with a grounder to third that should have ended the inning, but Michel Enriquez threw wildly to first as Tejada and Pujols scored for a 4-0 lead.
An error by first baseman Ariel Borrero on Placido Polanco's grounder allowed another run to score in the fourth, and Ortiz hit a no-doubt homer off Yonder Martinez in the fifth. Norberto Gonzalez relieved with the bases loaded in the sixth and walked Ortiz on a 3-1 pitch.
''All I tried to do was make the routine plays and get on base for the big guys," Polanco said.
Yuliesky Gourriel homered in the seventh off Jorge Sosa. After Cuba scored twice in the ninth on right fielder Juan Encarnacion's error and Alexei Ramirez's RBI single, Fernando Rodney relieved with two on and one out.
He struck out Eduardo Paret, loaded the bases with a walk to Enriquez, then struck out Joan Pedroso on a checked swing.
Venezuela 6, Puerto Rico 0 -- Victor Martinez hit a grand slam and Carlos Zambrano combined with six pitchers on a seven-hitter as Venezuela prevailed, also in San Juan.
Zambrano struck out five in four innings, giving up two hits and two walks. Carlos Silva, Rafael Betancourt, Gustavo Chacin, Victor Zambrano, Jorge Julio, and Francisco Rodriguez allowed five hits over the final five innings.
Endy Chavez hit a two-run homer off Joel Pineiro in the fifth and Martinez extended Venezuela's lead to 6-0 with a grand slam in the eighth as Puerto Rico lost for the first time in the tournament.