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2017 World Baseball Classic: Team USA advances to final round with win over Dominican Republic

A pair of highlight-reel plays helped the Americans advance over the defending champions.

Baseball: World Baseball Classic-USA at Dominican Republic Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Fans following the World Baseball Classic closely momentarily panicked on Saturday. When Team USA manager Jim Leyland released his lineup, his best hitter (Paul Goldschmidt) and best catcher (Buster Posey) were both on the bench. Luckily, it didn’t matter. The Americans rode strong performances from Giancarlo Stanton — Leyland’s No. 8 hitter, naturally — and their bullpen to a 6-3 win over the Dominican Republic in a loser-goes-home finale in Pool F.

USA starter Danny Duffy got into a bit of trouble in the first inning. After a throwing error by shortstop Brandon Crawford, Duffy allowed a double to Robinson Cano, giving the Dominicans a 1-0 lead. Cano advanced to third base after a wild pitch by Duffy, and then scored on an RBI single from Carlos Santana to double the lead.

Duffy escaped that jam and one in the second inning before his offense finally gave him some support. After a pair of singles to open the third inning, Detroit Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler grounded into a fielder’s choice, scoring Team USA’s first run of the game. A two-out double by left fielder Christian Yelich scored Kinsler to tie the game. The Americans then took the lead in the bottom of the fourth when Giancarlo Stanton launched a mammoth two-run home run off the facade of the Western Metal Supply Co. building in left field.

The two teams held each other scoreless for the next three innings, though not without some fireworks. Reliever Pat Neshek worked out of a jam in the fifth, striking out Starling Marte to the approval of a raucous — and very pro-American — crowd at Petco Park. Adam Jones preserved the Americans’ two-run lead in the sixth, robbing Baltimore Orioles teammate Manny Machado of a solo home run in deep center field with a spectacular over-the-wall catch.

The Dominicans drew a run closer in the bottom of the seventh when Cano hit a solo home run, but Andrew McCutchen extended the lead with a two-run double in the top of the eighth.

That would all but end the proceedings. Reliever Sam Dyson, who came on in the seventh to record two outs, worked a 1-2-3 eighth inning. Closer Luke Gregerson worked a perfect ninth to seal the win, and send the Americans to Los Angeles for the final round.

Notes and reactions

  • Giancarlo Stanton’s home run was measured at 117.3 miles per hour, the fourth-fastest exit velocity of the Statcast era. Stanton owns three of those four.
  • Think the American’s don’t care about this tournament? The atmosphere of this game suggests otherwise. With all of the excitement and emotion that a game like this generates, we could see more American players jump into the WBC player pool for the next tournament — especially if Team USA comes up short in the final round next week.
  • Ian Kinsler has struggled at the plate a bit during the tournament, hitting just .222 in five games. However, he has been a pest at the top of the Team USA lineup; entering Saturday’s game, he had a .368 on-base percentage. He drew another walk in this game.
  • With the Americans advancing, it’s still possible that Tigers pitchers Alex Wilson or Michael Fulmer could be added to the U.S. roster. Fulmer last pitched on Friday, and could start the WBC final (on Wednesday) on regular rest.
  • Team Venezuela lost to Puerto Rico 13-2 earlier on Saturday, officially ending their WBC run. Miguel Cabrera did not play due to lower back tightness, but Victor Martinez went 0-for-3 with a walk.
  • If Wilson or Fulmer are not added to the U.S. roster, Ian Kinsler and reliever Joe Jimenez are the only Tigers players remaining in the tournament.

What’s up next?

Team USA will face Japan on Tuesday in the second semi-final game at 9:00 p.m. ET. The winner will take on either Puerto Rico or the Netherlands in the WBC final on Wednesday, March 22 at 9:00 p.m. ET.