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Wright's single saves US

After delivering a beating, David Wright absorbed one. Following his decisive two-run single in the ninth, Wright was mobbed by US teammates, including Kevin Youkilis and Derek Jeter. After delivering a beating, David Wright absorbed one. Following his decisive two-run single in the ninth, Wright was mobbed by US teammates, including Kevin Youkilis and Derek Jeter. (Scott Audette/Reuters)
Associated Press / March 18, 2009
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Hobbled and humbled in the World Baseball Classic, Team USA is still swinging.

David Wright sliced a two-run single that capped a three-run rally in the bottom of the ninth inning last night in Miami, and the injury-plagued Americans qualified for this weekend's semifinals with a 6-5 win over Puerto Rico.

Wright's hit with one out eliminated Puerto Rico. The Americans advanced to the next round at Dodger Stadium.

"That situation is what you dream about when you're a kid," Wright said.

It was an especially sweet victory for the US after Saturday's embarrassment against Puerto Rico that triggered the mercy rule when the Americans fell 10 runs behind, ending the game in the seventh inning.

This time they played a full nine, saving their best for last in the 3-hour-54-minute marathon.

Trailing, 5-3, Team USA began its rally when Shane Victorino and Brian Roberts singled to start the ninth against J.C. Romero. Derek Jeter flied out, Roberts stole second, and Jimmy Rollins walked on a 3-2 pitch.

Fernando Cabrera came on to pitch, and he walked Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis - who had hit a solo homer in the third that gave the US a short-lived 3-1 lead - to force in a run.

Wright then lined a 2-1 pitch just inside the right-field line, raising his fist when the ball dropped in. The Mets star was mobbed by teammates near second base after two runs scored.

"You're celebrating a game," Youkilis said. "You're celebrating a nation."

The clutch hit came after the Americans stranded seven runners in scoring position in the first eight innings.

Alex Rios homered in the second and singled home the go-ahead run in the sixth for the Puerto Ricans. They totaled only five hits.

Hamels all right
Phillies ace Cole Hamels will return to camp in Clearwater, Fla., after a team physician found no damage in his sore left elbow.

General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. says Dr. Michael Ciccotti reported no structural damage to the joint after looking at the lefthander's pitching elbow yesterday in Philadelphia.

Last season's World Series MVP received an injection to relieve inflammation and should be cleared to throw by tomorrow.

Hamels's status for the April 5 opener against Atlanta is unclear.

Lee gets shelled
Cliff Lee was just trying to spot his fastballs. The Rangers had no trouble finding them.

The reigning Cy Young winner gave up 10 runs, 9 earned, on 11 hits in 2 2/3 innings during the Indians' 11-5 loss.

The Rangers opened the game with three straight hits and had a four-run first inning. They added six in the third.

"Today I was working on locating fastballs and they caught on to what I was doing early on," Lee said. "Whatever."

Hoffman ailing
Brewers manager Ken Macha says closer Trevor Hoffman has been sidelined by a strain on his right side.

No timetable has been set for Hoffman's return. Macha said trainers aren't overly concerned about the injury.

The 41-year-old Hoffman has missed one scheduled appearance this spring.

Rivera sharp
Mariano Rivera struck out two during a perfect fifth inning in his first game since he underwent offseason right shoulder surgery as the Yankees beat the Pirates, 9-2, in Tampa . . . Dodgers manager Joe Torre said it was a mistake to put Manny Ramírez in the outfield last weekend when he experienced tightness in his hamstring and that his star slugger will be restricted to hitting when he first returns to exhibition play. "I don't think he needs to play left field in every game he plays, no question," Torre said Tuesday. "And if I had it to do all over again, I would have DH'd him a few more days." . . . Rather than have Johan Santana ride a bus two hours to pitch against Atlanta, the Mets had their ace pitch against New York minor leaguers in Port St. Lucie, Fla., for four innings in his second outing since knee surgery. Santana allowed two runs and six hits, striking out five and walking none. He gave up three doubles and threw 40 of 56 pitches for strikes. "I felt pretty good, because I was able to throw a lot of strikes," Santana said.

Royals sign Ponson
The Royals signed righthander Sidney Ponson to a minor league contract and invited him to big league camp . . . The wife of Dodgers owner Frank McCourt is now the team's chief executive officer. McCourt said he is appointing his wife, Jamie McCourt, CEO and selecting chief operating officer Dennis Mannion to succeed her as team president. Mannion also retains the COO title . . . Lawyers for Roger Clemens asked a federal judge in Houston to reconsider his decision dismissing most of a defamation suit the pitcher filed against his former personal trainer, Brian McNamee, over allegations of performance-enhancing drug use. US District Judge Keith P. Ellison dropped most of the lawsuit Feb. 12.

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