The matchup between the USA and the Dominican Republic was probably the most anticipated of the entire World Baseball Classic’s first round. The game they played on Saturday night did not disappoint. After the USA took a 5-0 lead, the Dominican team rallied for seven unanswered runs to beat the Americans, 7-5, in front of the largest crowd in the history of Marlins Park.
Two former Orioles played out the decisive confrontation in a four run bottom of the eighth inning for the Dominicans. Then leading 5-3, USA manager Jim Leyland summoned last year’s postseason wizard, Andrew Miller, for a potential six out save. That’s a good plan in October. Things didn’t work out so well in March.
Miller lost control of a pitch and hit Jose Bautista, the first batter he saw. Many people want to hit Bautista, but giving him first base for free is not advisable. Neither is hitting him because he’s bigger and stronger than you and would probably kick your butt.
A Carlos Santana ground ball nearly snuck through into center field. Second baseman Ian Kinsler made a great play to range and get a glove on the ball, but he couldn’t get any outs. Just like that, the go-ahead run was at the plate with no one out.
Next up was another former Oriole, Nelson Cruz, one of many prodigious power hitters in the Dominican lineup. After getting an 0-2 count on his 2014 teammate, Miller left a pitch hanging where a pitch shouldn’t hang and Cruz ripped a line drive home run just inside of the foul pole in the left field seats. The entire Dominican team leaped out to greet him at home plate as the Dominicans suddenly took a 6-5 lead.
Some days a reliever just doesn’t have it. That’s even true of a very good reliever and perhaps even more likely to be true in the month of March. Miller allowed another home run before being pulled from the game with two outs in the inning.
Starling Marte took Miller deep the other way to add an insurance run that the Dominican team did not need. Mets closer Jeurys Familia set three American batters down in order in the ninth inning to put an exclamation point on the victory.
There was little idea early in the game that things might turn out this way. USA starter Marcus Stroman kept the Dominicans in check for 4.2 innings before he was lifted as he neared the WBC’s pitch count limit.
Stroman’s Dominican counterpart, Edinson Volquez, was not so good - though he got no help from his defense either. Three runs crossed the plate on six hits in only 3.2 innings.
Two of the runs were unearned due to a mishap in the outfield. Cruz and Marte nearly collided with one another on an Adam Jones fly ball into the gap. Cruz got a glove on the ball; Marte ran into his glove and knocked it out. This scored Ian Kinsler, who had singled with two outs. Jones ended up on third base and scored afterwards on a Christian Yelich double.
Orioles third baseman Manny Machado began the Dominican comeback with this majestic homer in the sixth inning:
May there be another 40 or more of these coming in the regular season. According to Statcast guru Daren Willman, the Machado dinger came off the bat at 109mph and traveled a total of 435 feet. Not too shabby.
The pitcher letting down America here was Tanner Roark, who (in this Orioles fan’s mind) was bewildered by the raucous atmosphere in a stadium packed by Dominican fans and was unable to focus, having never experienced anything like it in his home stadium in Washington, DC. More likely he was just having an off night, but that’s not as fun to say.
Whatever the reason, Roark wasn’t good. His allowing three runs on three hits and two walks in only 1.1 innings is what let the powerhouse Dominican lineup back into the game. Orioles catcher Welington Castillo added a third Dominican run with a double after Roark left the game, driving in the inherited runner, Marte.
In this round of Orioles against Orioles, it was the Dominican ones who were the victors, with a big hand from the ex-Oriole, Cruz. Yesterday’s American hero, Jones, went 0-4 in this contest.
The USA’s loss in this game means they’ll need to win tomorrow at 7pm against Canada to guarantee they advance into the next round. The DR team will also be in action to finish out its first round schedule against Colombia at 12:30pm.