Polanco, Cruz push Dominicans past Venezuela

Gregory Polanco of the Dominican Republic hits a solo home run during the fifth inning of the World Baseball Classic against Venezuela

The defending champion Dominican Republic took another huge step towards reaching the semi-finals of the World Baseball Classic by blanking Venezuela 3-0 in a marathon second round contest.

The mighty Dominicans claimed their first victory of the second round behind home runs by Gregory Polanco and Nelson Cruz and some precision pitching throughout all nine innings.

Polanco broke the scoreless draw in the fifth inning with a solo home run off starting pitcher Jhoulys Chacin.

"I had an idea what he was going to throw. I was right on it," said Polanco of his first homer of the tournament. "I have dreamed about this. I am so happy to be here."

The 16-team competition concludes with the final at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday.

The Dominicans were coming off a rare defeat in this tournament, losing their opening second round contest to Puerto Rico on Tuesday.

But this victory puts them back in the driver's seat as they will enter the final day of the second round action tied for second with the loser of Friday's USA versus Puerto Rico contest.

This was almost a must win for Venezuela, who now need a victory over favored Puerto Rico and for the United States to finish 3-0 in the second round to keep their hopes alive.

Miami Marlins pitcher Edinson Volquez got the start and didn't disappoint in the over four hour game in front of a crowd of 16,000 at Petco Park. He pitched four and 1/3 innings, striking out six and allowing four hits.

Five other pitchers combined to get the win, including closer Jeurys Familia who recorded the final out to strand runners at the corners.

Chacin took the loss for Venezuela. The San Diego Padres pitcher allowed three hits, one run and walked three. He finished with three strikeouts.

Dominican third baseman Manny Machado made a couple of clutch defensive plays to get the out at first base. On one in the sixth inning, Machado charged into foul territory to snag a fair ball and in one motion turned and fired to first.

First baseman Carlos Santana had to leave the bag to pick up the bouncing ball but recovered in time to get the batter Miguel Cabrera out.

The Dominican Republic concludes the second round against the Americans in a much-anticipated game on Saturday.