USA Beats Japan 2-1 To Reach World Baseball Classic Final: Highlights And Reaction
Before Tuesday, the U.S. has only advanced as far as the semifinals of the World Baseball Classic once, in 2009.
U.S. to Face Puerto Rico In World Baseball Classic Final
However, that changed when the Americans capitalized on a pair of defensive mistakes by Japan to secure a 2-1 victory in the 2017 World Baseball Classic semifinal in Los Angeles on a rainy Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium.
The U.S. will now face Puerto Rico— who eliminated the Americans in the second round of the 2013 WBC and defeated them 6-5 last week in San Diego— in the championship game Wednesday night.
“It means a heck of a lot,” outfielder Andrew McCutchen said of the U.S. finally clearing the semifinal hurdle. “We’ve got a great group of guys on this team who have dedicated this time to be able to try and win some ballgames. Sacrifices had to be made, and there are no egos when that door opens.”
Adam Jones helped the U.S. scored the winning run in the eighth inning by hitting a grounder that Japan third baseman Nobuhiro Matsuda bobbled, an error that allowed Brandon Crawford to sprint home.
In the bottom half of the inning, with the crowd standing up after sitting through rain, Seiichi Uchikawa reached first on a grounder to right and then ran to second on a sacrifice bunt from Tetsuto Yamada. Pat Neshek ended up stopping the late threat from Japan by retiring Japan’s cleanup hitter Yoshitomo Tsutsugoh, on a fly ball to deep right.
Luke Gregerson, meanwhile, pitched a perfect ninth inning, striking out Matsuda to seal the win. Gregerson was the last of six relievers used by the U.S.
Team USA opened scoring in the fourth by taking advantage of a miscue by second baseman Ryosuke Kikuchi, who was stunned by a hard grounder, which allowed Christian Yelich to race to second. With two outs, McCutchen drove Yelich home by smacking a single to left.
Neither manager blamed the weather for any of the mistakes, pointing out that both teams had to play under the same conditions. Nevertheless, U.S. starter Tanner Roark said the mound got a bit “hairy.” Roark pitched four scoreless innings.
Kikuchi compensated for his defensive error by hitting a fastball from Nate Jones in the sixth over the wall in right field, thus tying the score 1-1.
Many of the top Japanese pitchers who play in MLB, including the New York Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka and the Texas Rangers’ Yu Darvish, refused to participate in this year’s WBC. Nori Aoki of the Houston Astros is the only player on Japan’s roster who also plays for MLB and who participated in this year’s World Classic.
Japan reliever Kodai Senga struck out the first four hitters he faced: the All-Stars Eric Hosmer, McCutchen, Buster Posey and Giancarlo Stanton. He also struck out Yelich to end the inning, but by that point the US had already won. Another big play for the Americans in the eighth came when Crawford singled with one out and sped to third—before his game-winning run— when Ian Kinsler doubled off the left-center-field wall.
Japan’s performance on Tuesday was significantly weaker than any of its other performances in this year’s tournament, and the statistics showed it.
Japan entered the day having scored 46 runs in 6 games in the World Baseball Classic
1 run in the semifinals
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 22, 2017
After the game, Jones told reporters Team USA still has “unfinished business” to take care of. Watch the interview here:
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) March 22, 2017
The final between the U.S. and Puerto Rico on Wednesday should be entertaining.
LOS ANGELES, CA – MARCH 21: Giancarlo Stanton #27 of team United States at bat in the third inning against team Japan during Game 2 of the Championship Round of the 2017 World Baseball Classic at Dodger Stadium on March 21, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)