USA TODAY Sports’ Jorge Ortiz takes a look at how the major teams will fare in the second round of the World Baseball Classic.
USA TODAY Sports
SAN DIEGO – Breaking down Saturday’s Pool F game of the World Baseball Classic between the United States and the Dominican Republic.
United States 6, Dominican Republic 3
The game: The United States survived a shaky start, avoided losing control of the game early, and held on to their biggest victory in the WBC in eight years.
Team USA, which trailed 2-0 in the first inning and in danger of going down 4-0 by the second, watched its bullpen suffocate rallies virtually every inning, with Giancarlo Stanton hitting the deciding blow with a monstrous two-run home run that broke open a 2-2 tie in the fourth inning.,
They are going to the championship round for the first time since 2009, joining Puerto Rico out of their pool. They will play Japan in the semifinal game Tuesday at Dodger Stadium. The other semifinal game will be Monday between undefeated Puerto Rico and the Netherlands.
Team USA wiggled out of jams throughout the gamer to seize the victory, with the Dominican Republic putting runners on base every inning, and in four innings having runners in scoring position. Yet, inning after inning, USA escaped, using four relievers – Pat Neshek, Clippard, Sam Dyson and Luke Gregerson – to close out the game.
The offensive hero of the game was Stanton, who had been kept out of the starting lineup the last two games, and hitting just .100 in the tournament. He finally struck, launching a two-out, two-run homer into the second deck of the Western Metal Supply Co in the left-field corner for a 4-2 lead in the top of the fourth inning.
The defensive star was USA center fielder Adam Jones, who went to the deepest part of the ballpark, and reached over the fence to snag a home run away from Manny Machado, his Baltimore Orioles teammate, in the bottom of the seventh. Machado, showing his deepest respect, waved his helmet in appreciation, acknowledge the tremendous catch.
The sellout crowd certainly showed their appreciation for the San Diego native, chanting “A-dam Jones! A-dam Jones!” And the catch loomed large moments later when Robinson Cano shot a home run to left field off Tyler Clippard, cutting the USA advantage to 4-3.
“Off the bat, I’m like, ‘Manny got him,'” Jones said in a postgame TV interview. “But I knew that California air would slow it down some.”
State of Pool F: Team USA, which has reached the championship round just once in its WBC history, finally is going back, hoping to bring home the gold.
USA, which has never finished higher than fourth in the WBC, will play Japan on Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium in the semifinal game and expected to start Tanner Roark of the Washington Nationals.
The powerful Dominican Republic, the defending World Baseball Classic champions, and winners of 12 of its last 13 games, is going home.
Pivot point: The Dominican Republic was threatening to blow the game open in the second inning, leading 2-0, and putting runners on second and third with no outs, and the top of their order due up. USA starter Danny Duffy, the Kansas City Royals’ opening-day starter, got Jose Reyes to pop up to second base and Machado to hit a shallow fly to center. And then Robinson Cano ended the inning with a routine grounder to short.
Team USA used the momentum to tie the game, 2-2, in the top of the third with an RBI groundout by Ian Kinsler and run-scoring double by Christian Yelich.
And then came Stanton’s monster shot in the fourth.
Man of the moment: Stanton, who was hitting just .067 off Dominican starter Santana when he stepped to the plate in the fourth inning with Brandon Crawford on first base, and drilled Santana’s 92-mph fastball over the left-field wall, 403 away, for a 4-2 lead. The ball landed where so many of his moonshots did in July, when he won the Home Run Derby at the All-Star Game here.
Just like that, Stanton’s drought was over.
And so was Team USA’s, with a trip to Los Angeles.
Needing a mulligan: Dominican sluggers.
Clutch hitting by the Dominican Republic.
They had runners on second and third with no outs in the second inning, and couldn’t score.
In the fifth inning, they had second and third with one out, only for Carlos Santana to pop up to third base and Starling Marte to strike out.
Two golden opportunities, needing only a ground ball or sacrifice fly to score a run, and they came up empty each time.
In the sixth inning, they had a runner on second base and one out, and again failed to come through.
Manager’s special: USA manager Jim Leyland could have pulled starter Duffy in the first inning with his struggles, giving up two runs.
He could have done the same in the second inning, when Duffy gave up back-to-back hits to open the inning, with runners on second and third and no outs.
Leyland stuck with his man, and it paid off. Duffy not only escaped the jam, but wound up pitching into the fifth inning, saving the bullpen.
What you missed on TV: Team USA officials are trying to decide what to do with Tampa Bay Rays ace Chris Archer, who plans to rejoin the team in Los Angeles for the semifinals.
Yet, USA manager Jim Leyland wants to go with Roark on Tuesday against Japan. The way Leyland and his staff figured it, he deserves the start since he had been with the team from the get-go and had pitched only 1 1/3 innings in the WBC.
They also plan to start Toronto Blue Jays ace Marcus Stroman on Wednesday if they advance to the championship game.
Archer, who left the team and went to the Tampa Bay Rays’ training camp since the United States did not play on his scheduled throw day last Thursday, purchased a plane ticket to Los Angeles in anticipation of perhaps starting the championship game.
Team USA officials are inclined to inform Archer that he is free to rejoin the team, but if he wants to pitch, he could be relegated to being a long reliever.
GALLERY: Best of the World Baseball Classic