After an early 2-0 hole in the first inning, Team USA rallied back with two runs in the third, fourth and eighth inning, beating defending World Baseball Classic champs Dominican Republic 6-3. With the win, Team USA reaches the Championship Round of the Classic for the first time since the 2009 Classic, where they finished 4th. Team Dominican Republic were eliminated with the loss, cementing that a new champion will come in 2017. The atmosphere for this elimination game was invigorated in baseball greatness. Here’s the moments that made the game special.
Team USA Reaches Championship Round with 6-3 Victory Over Dominican Republic
The Heroics of Team USA
In the three previous World Baseball Classic tournaments, Team USA never put forth an effort worth mentioning. It seemed they didn’t have the same fire to win as other countries, treating the series more as an exhibition than a classic. The 2017 version of America’s finest showed in San Diego that they were embracing the importance of playing the game they love for the country they play for.
From Giancarlo Stanton‘s mammoth home run, to the catch of the year from Adam Jones, to the brilliant efficiency of the pitching staff to get out of heated jams, the Americans proved their worth heading toward the semi-finals. More importantly, they played with more fire and ferocity that hasn’t been the status of USA teams in the past. This team wants to win it all, and they have the capability of doing so.
The Sultan of Miami
Baseball somewhat forgot about Stanton in 2016. It’s strange, but understandable. He’s averaging less than 100 games the last two seasons. He’s amassed more than 75 RBI just once in the past four years. His longest stretch of appeal from last season was a horrendous strikeout skid that rivaled any in baseball history. With that said, what should never be forgotten about Stanton is the unmitigated power that his swing can produce. In the fourth inning off Ervin Santana, he showcased that power.
The exit velocity was equated to 117.3 MPH, which sounds incredulous until you realize it came from Stanton. The ball could have evaporated after contact and it would be believable. Stanton emphatically charged around the bases, the crowd was electrified and Team USA had a 4-2 lead.
Stanton may not sustain a strong enough career to go down as one of the greatest power hitters of all-time, but what he accomplished Saturday night in San Diego reminded the world that the thrash off his bat is unlike any baseball has ever seen.
The Intensity of Baseball
Forever the stigma with baseball is the game’s pace of play. For most spectators, the game seems to drag along. It produces applause worthy moments at times, but altogether the scene is dormant and never enticing enough to raise an eye. Yet, as a matter of fact, baseball is truly connected by moments of unequivocal intensity. That’s what fans were witnessing at Petco Park Saturday night, many times over.
The best example came in the bottom of the seventh inning. Dominican third baseman Manny Machado led off the inning against American reliever Tyler Clippard. On a 2-1 fastball, Machado smoked a shot to right-center, crashing toward the wall. The ball, however, would fall into the glove of his Orioles teammate, Adam Jones, making the catch of the tournament so far. Machado could only tip his cap and make his way back to the dugout.
Then, five pitches later, Robinson Cano decided to further his stamp in the game. After doubling home the Dominican’s first run of the game, Cano smashed a home run to left field, drawing the Republic within one run. Within a matter of minutes, baseball minds went into hysteria, trying to understand what they just witnessed. Then the thought reverts back to reality: it’s just the bottom of the seventh inning, it’s a one-run game and there’s one out.
That’s baseball, folks. Unapologetic thunderous fervor for the world to see. Believe it.