MIAMI – Breaking down Friday’s Pool C game of the World Baseball Classic between Colombia and the U.S.
Team USA 3, Colombia 2, 10 innings:
The game: Adam Jones’ RBI single in the 10th inning drove in the winning run as the U.S. barely escaped falling victim to one of the biggest upsets in the WBC’s four-edition history.
The U.S. didn’t advance past the semifinals – and reached them just once – in the three previous WBCs, and it would have been in a precarious position had it lost its tournament opener to a heavy underdog. Colombia is playing in its first WBC, having earned a spot last year by going 3-0 in a qualifying round against Panama and Spain.
Christian Yelich and Brandon Crawford worked one-out walks in the 10th off losing pitcher Guillermo Moscoso, and after an Ian Kinsler groundout, Jones dumped the winning single into left field on an 0-2 pitch, much to his club’s relief. Teammates poured out to celebrate the victory with Jones near first base.
Crawford’s line single to right with two outs in the sixth, Team USA’s first hit of the game, ended Jose Quintana’s night and sparked a game-tying rally. Kinsler followed with a single off reliever William Cuevas, and Jones’ RBI double cut Colombia’s lead in half, 2-1. The U.S. tied it when Kinsler came around to score on a Cuevas wild pitch as Nolan Arenado was striking out. Arenado beat the throw to first with a head-first slide.
Neither team managed a hit until Colombia’s Jesus Valdez doubled off Mychal Givens with two outs in the fifth. Adrian Sanchez and Mauricio Ramos followed with doubles of their own, and suddenly the South Americans were stunningly ahead 2-0 and their crowd was dreaming of a huge upset.
The Tampa Bay Rays’ Chris Archer was just as effective as Quintana, retiring all 12 batters he faced, but was pulled after 41 pitches.
State of Pool C: Saturday’s dream matchup between the U.S. and the defending champion Dominican Republic remains intact, with both clubs sporting 1-0 records that put them in the driver’s seat for advancing. The last time they met, also in Miami in the second round of the 2013 tournament, the DR prevailed 3-1 on the way to claiming the title in undefeated fashion. Edinson Volquez will take the mound for the DR opposite Marcus Stroman.
Colombia faces Canada in the early game Saturday.
Man of the moment: Quintana. The Chicago White Sox left-hander was both brilliant and economical, holding the U.S. hitless over the first 5 2/3 innings until Crawford singled to right. That was as far as Quintana was allowed to go, having thrown 63 pitches, two short of the tournament’s first-round limit. Until Crawford’s hit, Quintana had faced the minimum 17 batters, coaxing a Buster Posey double play after a second-inning walk. At one point he retired 13 batters in a row while facing a loaded lineup.
Pivot point: Arenado, who was also invited to play for Team Puerto Rico, has been especially gung-ho about representing the U.S. His mad dash to first and scrambling slide after striking out tied the game in the sixth and allowed the U.S. to breathe easier. His hustle play also got the largely pro-U.S. crowd of 22,580 stoked.
Arenado, a four-time Gold Glover at third base, helped the U.S. escape out of a jam in the eighth by starting an inning-ending double play off a soft liner by Donovan Solano.
Needing a mulligan: Cuevas. The right-hander is coming off an outstanding winter ball season as a starter in Venezuela, but he wasted Quintana’s fine work. Inheriting a runner on first with two outs and a 2-0 lead in the sixth, Cuevas promptly yielded a single and a double before throwing the fateful wild pitch to Arenado. In fairness, Cuevas appeared to have Arenado struck out on an inside curveball earlier in the at-bat but didn’t get the call from plate umpire Tripp Gibson.
Managers special: Colombia skipper Luis Urueta had an interesting choice of starters between Quintana and right-hander Julio Teheran of the Atlanta Braves, who will start Saturday against Canada.
Urueta, a coach and coordinator in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ system since 2007, went with Quintana not because of which hand he pitches with, but rather in which league. He noted the majority of the hitters in the U.S. starting lineup (seven of nine) play for National League teams and therefore have seen little of Quintana, current staff ace of the American League’s White Sox.
What you missed on TV: The constant rhythmic drumming coming from the Colombia cheering section. Though nowhere near as numerous or boisterous as their Dominican counterparts, the Colombian fans made their presence felt, especially for a country whose sporting taste leans heavily toward soccer.