The United States’ best finish in a World Baseball Classic is 4th. They have a chance to best that result after a winner-moves-on victory over the defending champion Dominican Republic Saturday night. The rematch certainly lived up to the hype. After a U.S. loss to Pool F champion Puerto Rico on Friday the winner of Saturday’s game would grab the fourth and final spot in the championship round in Los Angeles.
The Americans and Dominicans came into the tournament as the two favorites, and their two match-ups lived up to expectations. After they blew a 5 run lead to the Dominicans in a loss earlier in the tournament, the United States were out for revenge. In possibly the best game of the tournament thus far, the Stars & Stripes prevailed.
The Dominicans jumped out to an early 2-0 lead after the 1st, which quite possibly should have been more if not for a great play by U.S. shortstop Brandon Crawford, who threw out Nelson Cruz at the plate before Adrian Beltre grounded out to end the inning. The U.S. found themselves in trouble again in the 2nd, as the Dominicans put runners on 2nd & 3rd with no outs. Kansas City Royals pitcher Danny Duffy settled down though, and got the next three batters out.
The Americans got on the board with an Ian Kinsler RBI fielder’s choice. Then Kinsler went first to home on a Christian Yelich double, tying the game. Then in the top of the 4th, the U.S. grabbed a lead with a monster two-run shot by 2016 Home Run Derby champion Giancarlo Stanton. Phillies pitcher Pat Neshek relieved Duffy after 4 & 1/3 innings, and got out of his own jam by striking out Starling Marte to end the 5th.
Both teams went down quietly in the 6th, and the U.S. went down 1-2-3 in the top half of the 7th. Manny Machado led off the bottom of the 7th for the Dominicans, and drove a Tyler Clippard fastball to deep center. His Oriole teammate Adam Jones reached into the Petco Park stands and absolutely robbed Machado of his 2nd home run against the Americans. Cap10 America, as he’s being called now, made the greatest catch I have ever seen in my 18 years of existence. It became even bigger when Robinson Cano homered in the next at bat to make it a one run game.
The U.S. added two insurance runs in the 8th thanks to a two-run double by Andrew McCutchen. Now with a 3 run lead, the U.S. got the next six Dominican batters out, and advanced to the semifinals for the 2nd time in World Baseball Classic history. With a 6-3 victory, the United States ended a repeat attempt by the Dominicans.
It was a much needed victory for USA baseball, as the star studded team has to be the now automatic favorite with the Dominicans eliminated. They undoubtedly have the best roster remaining, but will have to face a tough Japanese team in the semifinals on Tuesday night. The Netherlands and Puerto Rico will face off in the other semifinal Monday night in Los Angeles, with the winner of each match-up facing off in the 2017 World Baseball Classic Championship game Wednesday at Dodger Stadium.