For the first time in the history of the World Baseball Classic, the American team is heading to the final round of the tournament. They beat Japan, 2-1, in a rain-soaked contest in Los Angeles on Tuesday night. The winning run was driven in, once again, by none other than American hero Adam Jones.
If you want to get technical about it, Jones drove in that winning run on a groundout when there was a runner already on third base. If you want to get even more technical, the run only scored in spite of a drawn-in Japanese infield because third baseman Nobuhiro Matsuda bobbled the ball and was unable to throw home to cut off the run. But that’s not nearly as fun as celebrating an unvarnished Jones triumph, is it?
You don’t get many, or any MLB games that come with a band of trumpet players and drums blaring throughout the whole game. It all lent a fun and different energy to the Dodgers Stadium crowd that made the game really seem like an event, which is exactly what it was.
The two teams were evenly matched, combining for only ten hits. In the end, the Americans got the clutch, well, groundout and the Japanese team could not get a hit with runners in scoring position for a whole game. As a result, it’s the Americans who will be heading to the finals at 9pm on Wednesday night, where they will get a rematch against undefeated Puerto Rico.
Japan’s starter, Tomoyuki Sugano, treated by the MLB Network telecast as a surefire future MLBer, was up to the task of facing an MLB-caliber lineup. The 27-year-old righty held the Americans to just three hits and a walk while pitching six innings of the game.
Sugano did not allow any earned runs. Unfortunately for him, he was tagged for one unearned run in the lone rally the Americans sustained against him. Left fielder Christian Yelich hit a fairly routine grounder to second baseman Ryosuke Kikuchi that Kikuchi could not field cleanly on the outfield grass. The error led to Yelich standing on second base.
After Sugano struck out USA third baseman Nolan Arenado, he put another runner on base by walking Eric Hosmer. That brought up right fielder Andrew McCutchen, who was able to drive a ball on the ground into the outfield to score Yelich for the game’s first run.
Kikuchi atoned for the error. After American starter Tanner Roark left the game, he was relieved by Nate Jones. Kikuchi tagged Jones for a solo home run in the sixth inning. The ball cleared the fence in right field and was just barely out of the reach of McCutchen, who almost pulled in a catch as cool as Adam Jones did against the Dominican Republic.
The game stayed knotted at 1-1 until the eighth inning. That’s when the Americans were able to get back on the scoreboard against Kodai Senga.
The rally started at the bottom of the lineup with a one out single from shortstop Brandon Crawford. He stood on first base when Ian Kinsler blasted a pitch into the left-center gap. In truth, there was no good reason for Crawford not to have scored on the play, but he got a bad read and so was held up at third base, which was good as he would have been thrown out if he tried to score.
As it worked out, that just gave Jones a chance to be the hero, and Jones took up the flag to do so, even if it wasn’t in the flashiest way.
Mark Melancon, Pat Neshek, and Luke Gregerson combined to keep the Japanese off the board once the USA took the lead.