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 Wednesday’s Pool F game of the World Baseball Classic between the United States and Venezuela.
United States 4, Venezuela 2
The game: Adam Jones, the hometown kid from Morse High School in San Diego, who squandered Team USA’s greatest scoring chance early in the game, wound up getting sweet redemption.
Jones, on a 96-mph fastball, hit a leadoff homer in the eighth inning off Hector Rondon to tie the game at 2-apiece, and his teammates took over from there.
Three batters later, Eric Hosmer homered over the right-center-field fence on the first pitch he saw, a 418-foot blast, and USA got a critical comeback victory.
State of Pool F: It was a huge victory for Team USA, which was on the verge of losing to the weakest team in the pool. A loss would have had it on the verge of elimination. The Americans will have the day off Thursday, but then have to face powerful Puerto Rico on Friday night and the Dominican Republic on Saturday. They also are facing tough pitching matchups with Seth Lugo scheduled on Friday and Ervin Santana on Saturday. Venezuela, which was within decimal points of being eliminated in a tiebreaker in the first round in Mexico, now are facing a must-win game Thursday against the Dominican Republic. It’s also a must-win for the DR, whose 11-game winning streak ended Tuesday night with a loss to Puerto Rico.
Pivot point: Team USA was down to its final six outs, and facing what could have been a critical defeat.
USA’s offense had been dormant.
Jones stepped up in the eighth and led off with a homer off Hector Rondon. Andrew McCutchen hit a one-out single, and then Hosmer followed with a massive 418-foot homer.
Just like that, USA turned the game around, giving it an honest-to-goodness shot at reaching the final round in Los Angeles if it can knock off Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic.
Man of the moment: King Felix Hernandez.
Hernandez, who lasted just 2 2/3 innings in his first start in the WBC certainly came with back a vengeance. He mowed through the USA lineup for five innings, giving up just three hits, all in the third inning. He retired the side in four of the five innings. He retired the final seven batters he faced. He threw just 61 pitches, and likely could have at least gone another inning, but was pulled in favor of Deolis Guerra.
Needing a mulligan: Rondon.
Rondon, who pitches for the Chicago Cubs, came in protecting a 2-1 lead in the eighth inning.
He managed to turn it into a 4-2 loss.
Rondon gave up a leadoff home run to Jones, and three batters later, a two-run shot to first baseman Eric Hosmer of the Kansas City Royals.
Rondon permitted five hits and a walk before being pulled for Bruce Rondon.
Manager’s special: Venezuela manager Omar Vizquel went to the mound in the sixth inning to talk to left-handed reliever Jose Castillo, who was in a big-time jam. Team USA had runners on first and second with two outs, and dangerous Nolan Arenado was at the plate. Yet, instead of taking out Castillo and replacing him with a right-hander, Vizquel stuck with him.
Arenado battled him, running the count to 3-and-2, before striking him out on a nasty 82-mph slider.
What you missed on TV: USA manager Jim Leyland, trying to make sure everyone plays in this tournament, talked about the frustrations of trying to appease everyone, with Alex Bregman making his first start Wednesday at shortstop and Josh Harrison scheduled to start Friday against Puerto Rico.
“It’s pretty tough,’’ Leyland says. “You know, everybody doesn’t get the same fair shake. It’s unfortunate. So I’m trying to do the best I can with it, but obviously some people get cheated out of at-bats. I feel for that, I do. Trust me. I’ve been lying awake at night trying to find a way to piece this guy in, trying to do the best I can.
“Some in the organization are concerned about at-bats. I totally understand that. But at the end of the day you have to be a little callous, because if you don’t, you’ll drive yourself crazy.
“At the end of the day I want to walk away from this thing knowing I did the best job I could trying to get everybody in as much as I could.’’
Gallery: Best pictures from the WBC