Team USA Wins World Baseball Classic Opener

By Will Cheney – Last Word On Baseball

Team USA faced Team Colombia in both teams’ first games of the 2017 World Baseball Classic in a tough Pool C. The story of the night in Miami was dominant starting pitching. That and, well, what it can mean for a lineup when said dominant starter is no longer in the game.

Team USA Wins World Baseball Classic Opener

Chris Archer

Team USA looked to Tampa Bay Rays ace Chris Archer to come out with a bang, and he didn’t disappoint. Archer was marvelous from the start, retiring the Colombian hitters in order through four innings. He finished the night with three strikeouts on just 41 pitches through those four innings, taking advantage of Team Colombia’s aggressiveness at the plate.

Jose Quintana

If Archer was good, Chicago White Sox lefty Jose Quintana was masterful. He matched Archer pitch-for-pitch through four innings, but managed to terrorize Team USA’s lineup a bit further. He retired the side in order in the fifth, and struck out the first two batters in the sixth before giving up a single to Brandon Crawford. Quintana finished the night with an earned run over 5.2 innings pitched with four strikeouts and a walk. He was also the first starting pitcher to make it to the sixth inning in the 2017 World Baseball Classic.

Team Colombia Draws First Blood, USA Bullpen Hiccups

Mychal Givens, a righty reliever from the Baltimore Orioles, was the first reliever to take over following Archer’s departure. The fifth inning started well, with Givens striking out the first two Colombian hitters. What followed had the potential to be disastrous. Givens gave up three straight doubles to put Team Colombia up 2-0. He settled down and got out of the jam. Luke Gregerson, Sam Dyson, Nate Jones and Pat Neshek combined for three scoreless innings through eight, accompanied by some timely defense.

Team USA Bats Wake Up

Crawford’s single off Quintana effectively ended the dominant southpaw’s night. That was just what the doctor ordered. Colombia then turned to William Cuevas to get the third out and end Team USA’s rally. That did not happen. Ian Kinsler singled to put two men on for Adam Jones, who proceeded to rip a double in the left field corner that scored Crawford, and then it got weird. Cuevas had Nolan Arenado struck out, but reached first after the ball got by the catcher, allowing Kinsler to score. It became a 2-2 tie in Miami.

Late Rallies Cut Short

With Cuevas still on the mound, Christian Yelich led off the bottom of the eighth with a pinch-hit double. After a Crawford pop-up, a Kinsler single put runners at the corners for Team USA. The rally was cut short with a Jones strikeout and an Arenado flyout.

With Neshek on the mound in the top of the ninth, Team Colombia conjured up two-straight two-out singles to put runners at the corners. Neshek managed to end the rally with a swinging strikeout. The 2-2 tie carried on into the bottom of the ninth in Miami.

A Walk-Off Win in South Beach

After walks to Yelich and Crawford by Guillermo Moscoso with one gone in the 10th, Kinsler grounded out to second to put the winning run at third for Adam Jones. Jones laced an 0-2 pitch to left field to secure the Pool C win for Team USA.

Team USA’s next game is scheduled for Saturday, March 11 against the Dominican Republic. Young Toronto Blue Jays righty Marcus Stroman is slated to start.

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