If you didn’t like that, you don’t like baseball.
In a thrilling game before a sold out Petco Park, with half the crowd chanting “USA” and the other waving Dominican flags, Team United States beat Team Dominican Republic 6-3 in the 2017 World Baseball Classic to send the United States to the semifinals and eliminate the defending champions from the tournament.
The Dominican Republic got off to a fast start as the second Dominican batter in the bottom of the first inning, Manny Machado, reached on an error by shortstop Brandon Crawford and then scored on a Robinson Cano double. Two batters later, it was 2-0 after an RBI single by Carlos Santana. But Crawford made up for his earlier error by fielding a Starling Marte grounder and throwing home to nail Nelson Cruz trying to score from third. The Dominican Republic led 2-0 after one, but a big inning was averted.
And that was the story of the game for the Dominican Republic. They left eight runners on base and went 1 for 11 with runners in scoring position in this game. A big key was the second inning, when the Dominican Republic had runners on second and third with no outs, but US starter Danny Duffy got out of the jam with no runs scoring.
Meanwhile, Team USA chipped away at the Dominican lead. They tied it up in the third inning when Giancarlo Stanton singled to lead off the inning and Jonathan Lucroy executed a hit-and-run to put runners on the corners and no outs. An Ian Kinsler fielder’s choice and a double by Christian Yelich tied up the game 2-2.
In the fourth inning, Stanton came to the plate against Dominican starter Ervin Santana. This happened.
The exit velocity on that ball was 117.3 mph, which is the fourth-hardest hit HR of the Statcast era. That made the score 4-2.
Tyler Clippard was pitching for Team USA in the seventh inning and didn’t look good. Manny Machado led off the inning against him and sent the ball heading deep to center field. But Machado’s Orioles teammate Adam Jones, aka “Captain America,” did this:
That catch is the stuff of legends. We’ll be talking about that for as long as there is a World Baseball Classic. All Machado could do was tip his cap to his friend.
Heck, SB Nation is already putting it in a museum.
But Clippard was left on the mound for one more batter, and Robinson Cano sent the ball deep to left field. For a second it looked like Yelich was going to rob the second home run in a row, but the Marlins outfielder couldn’t make the play and the score was 4-3. That was all for Clippard as Pat Neshek entered the game and retired the next two batters to keep Team USA in the lead.
In the next half inning, Team USA extended their lead to 6-3 on a two-run double by Andrew McCutchen. Dyson pitched a perfect bottom of the ninth and gave way to Luke Gregerson for the save. Gregerson retired Jonathan Villar, Jose Reyes and Machado to end the game and send the US to the semifinals in Los Angeles.
With the win, the United States makes it to the semifinals of the World Baseball Classic for the first time since 2006, when they lost to Japan. They will get a chance to even the score as they face Japan on Tuesday.
The game didn’t count for anything but pride, but Puerto Rico improved their record in the 2017 WBC to 6-0 with a clobbering of Venezuela. Kennys Vargas homered for Puerto Rico and the Cubs’ Javier Baez had the day off.