On a rainy Tuesday night, Chavez Ravine was the site of the most pivotal World Baseball Classic game ever for Team USA. Coming into the 2017 WBC, the United States played .500 baseball. The team has performed better this time around, but a large obstacle still lay in front: Samurai Japan. The premise of the semifinal matchup against the undefeated Japanese team was simple: win and move on to the championship game or go home.
Team USA Defeats Japan, Advances to WBC Final
Versatile Washington Nationals righty Tanner Roark earned the nod from manager Jim Leyland to start against Japan. Keeping with the theme of dominant USA starting pitching, Roark cruised through four scoreless innings. He finished the night with two hits allowed, one walk and one strikeout over those four innings.
USA Draws First Blood
An error by Japanese second baseman Ryosuke Kikuchi to leadoff the fourth inning allowed Christian Yelich to reach safely. Two batters later, Andrew McCutchen drove a single to left field to score Yelich and give Team USA an early 1-0 lead on Japan.
Kikuchi’s Delivery Service
After Team USA reliever Nate Jones recorded four-straight outs from the start of the fifth, Kikuchi came to the plate with a chance at redemption. He then proceeded to lace a Jones pitch over the right field wall (literally inches over McCutchen’s glove to tie the game at one apiece.
Americans Answer Back
The score remained until Team USA’s bats woke up in the top of the eighth. Following hits by Brandon Crawford and Ian Kinsler, Adam Jones came up with runners at second and third. Jones broke his bat and hit a slow roller to Japanese third baseman Nobuhiro Matsuda as he slipped on the wet infield grass, allowing Kinsler to score.
The 2-1 score would hold as new San Francisco Giants closer Mark Melancon, who joined the roster just this week, and Pat Neshek worked around a couple of base runners during a scoreless eighth inning.
With the win, Team USA is scheduled to appear in the 2017 World Baseball Classic Championship Game against Puerto Rico on Wednesday. Marcus Stroman is the scheduled starter for Leyland’s squad.