USA going to the World Baseball Classic semifinals

Peter Benavides, Author

The U.S. beat the Dominican Republic 6-3 on Saturday to punch their ticket into the semifinals of the World Baseball Classic. They will go on to play Japan in the semifinals with Puerto Rico and the Netherlands playing for the opposing spot in the championship game at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.

The 2017 World Baseball Classic has been on since March 4th with the championship round sneaking up on the 22nd. This international competition has taken place every four years since 2005 with the previous winners being Japan with two wins (‘05 and ‘09) and the Dominican Republic winning in 2013.

USA fell behind 2 runs after one inning but came back in the 3rd inning to tie the game at two. They took the lead in the 4th when Miami Marlins’ player Giancarlo Stanton pulled a souvenir home run into the 3rd deck which brought in a tie-breaking two runs. The game was stuck at 4-2 until the seventh inning when Dominican second baseman and Seattle Mariner, Robinson Cano hit a solo shot to bring the Dominican Republic within one. Cano’s dinger should have tied the game because the previous batter, Manny Machado, also hit a ball that should have been a home run. It was robbed by Orioles teammate, Adam Jones by a clutch catch. The eighth inning saw USA’s Andrew McCutchen hit a two-run double to bring the lead to 6-3. The lead stuck, giving team USA its first semifinal berth since 2009.

Contrary to how many stars skip the tournament for the United States (Kershaw, Trout, Harper, etc.), the chance to play for their home country means a lot to those who participate. “Winning a World Series,’’ Netherlands manager Hensley Muelens says, “that’s the reason you play Major League Baseball. You’re very proud when that happens. It’s very emotional, but winning for the motherland is a different level. I played in the Olympics in 2000, and I got to coach in 2004. The level of anxiety, the level of emotions, they go a little higher than winning the World Series.’’ “There’s no doubt we’re taking it real serious,’’ USA third baseman Nolan Arenado said. “We didn’t sign up for this to just have a good time. We came here to compete, and are here to win.’’ The United States has never won the WBC championship in the tournament’s young history, but they only need two more wins, one against Japan  in the semifinals and another against the winner of the Netherlands/Puerto Rico game. Those on Team USA, leaving their own clubs for the chance to win USA’s first gold medal in the WBC, will never forget Saturday’s win. The WBC only comes around once every four years and players want to win more than anybody, but if this is as far as team USA can go then Adam Jones explains it best “Because at the end of the day, I’m not representing the Orioles. Cutch ain’t representing the Pirates, Stanton is not representing the Marlins. We’re representing the entire United States, and that right there is pretty special.’’