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Taking it seriously, Team USA advances

MIAMI — Andrew Miller said yes to taking part in the World Baseball Classic when many other top U.S. pitchers said no, including Clayton Kershaw, Noah Syndergaard and Justin Verlander.

As a reward for showing up, Miller gave up two home runs in an inning for the first time since 2011. That fueled a comeback by the Dominican Republic, which rallied from a five-run deficit to beat the U.S. team, delighting a raucous sellout crowd.

An hour after his dismal WBC debut, Miller said he didn't regret deciding to participate.

"I want to pitch in this atmosphere," the Indians' All-Star closer said. "I want to get better at pitching in games like this. I want to play on teams like this. I want to play against lineups like that. At this point in my career, this is the fun stuff you get a chance to take part in.

"Honestly, I never would have thought a couple of years ago I would have had an opportunity to make a roster like this. It's a special thing you get to participate in. I wish I had performed better, and I hope I get some chances to atone for it."

He will. The Americans bounced back from their deflating loss Saturday to the defending champion Dominicans, and both teams advanced to the second round in San Diego beginning Tuesday.

Team USA, a perennial World Baseball Classic underachiever, believes this year will be different. The Americans have never reached the finals, much less won the tournament, and participation has been only so-so because of tepid support by major league teams fearful of injuries to players unaccustomed to going all-out in March.

But this year's roster might be the Americans' best yet, even without many top pitchers. Starters Danny Duffy, Chris Archer and Marcus Stroman combined for 12 2/3 scoreless innings as Team USA went 2-1 in round one. Brandon Crawford and Christian Yelich had five hits each, and Nolan Arenado and Buster Posey homered.

The Dominicans, meanwhile, went 3-0 and are 11-0 in the past two WBCs. Their comeback win over the U.S. team rocked Marlins Park, packed with spectators from the Caribbean nation.

"That's an atmosphere I've never been a part of," said Duffy, who pitched in the 2015 World Series. "It was the loudest I've ever heard any place ever."

Enthusiastic fan support by other countries is one reason Duffy, Miller and other American players are glad they're taking part.