In the matchup of the two traditionally most-disappointing teams in the World Baseball Classic, Orioles outfielder Adam Jones and Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer both hit home runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to lead Team USA to a 4-2 win over Team Venezuela in second-round play.
The game started as a real pitching duel as Team Venezuela sent ace Felix Hernandez to the mound and he held Team USA scoreless on just three singles over five innings. He was almost matched by his Mariners rotation mate Drew Smyly, who gave up just one unearned run after he made a bad throw to first base on a dribbler. Smyly struck out eight, including the final five batters he faced, and did not walk anyone.
Truth be told, many hard hit fly balls in this game died in the outfield at Petco Park, always a difficult place to hit, especially at night. But Rougned Odor hit one so hard off of Team USA reliever David Robertson that it cleared the right field wall in the seventh inning, making it 2-0.
The United States got a run back in the bottom of the seventh when Hosmer led off the inning with an infield single and Paul Goldschmidt reached on an error by Odor. The next two batters, Andrew McCutchen and Jonathan Lucroy, both hit the ball hard to right field, but they couldn’t overcome the marine air and Carlos Gonzalez caught both fly balls. But Hosmer went to third on the first one and scored on the Lucroy fly.
Pat Neshek retired Venezuela in the top of the eighth and Cubs reliever Hector Rondon entered the game for Venezuela in the bottom of the inning. Here’s where things get bittersweet for Cubs fans cheering for Team USA, because Adam Jones (who should be the new Captain America, by the way) greeted Rondon with a blast to left-center that cleared the wall and tied the game up 2-2.
Christian Yelich, the next batter against Rondon, singled to center field. Rondon then retired Arenado on a fly to right, but Hosmer connected on a line-drive home run to right-center field to give the US a 4-2 lead.
Rondon pitched 2⁄3 of an inning and allowed three runs on five hits and a walk.
Luke Gregerson pitched the top of the ninth for the save. He walked Miguel Cabrera with one out, but then Victor Martinez hit the ball to the right side and into the shift, where third baseman Nolan Arenado had moved to and the US completed an easy 5-6-3 double play.
Team USA is now 1-0 in the second round and will take on Team Puerto Rico on Friday. The winner of that game will be guaranteed to at least make the group tiebreaker game and will most likely qualify for the next round. Venezuela plays the Dominican Republic tomorrow in San Diego and the loser will likely be eliminated from the tournament, although there are some permutations that would allow the loser to advance.