Let me start by giving my respect to Japan. I wrote them off early due to their lack of MLB players, but this team can really play. They have a unique and funky style-- each pitcher pauses two to three times throughout their delivery-- but you can tell they know what they’re doing. Their pitching been terrific, and Tomoyuki Sugano was unbelievable in his start last night. Facing a lineup of MLB All-Stars, Sugano struck out six and limited the US to just one unearned run over six innings.
Andrew McCutchen got the scoring started for the US, driving in Christian Yelich on a single to left in the top of the fourth. Japan's Ryosuke Kikuchi evened the score in the sixth, launching an opposite field homer that just managed to clear Andrew McCutchen's glove in right.
Ultimately, it was a routine ground ball hit by Adam Jones that made the difference for the US. With runners on second and third in the top of the eighth, Jones hit a dribbler that was bobbled by Japanese third baseman Nobuyuki Matsuda. The bobble prevented Matsuda from making a play at home, allowing Brendan Crawford to cruise home giving US a 2-1 lead
With the score still 2-1 headed into the ninth, it was time for America’s Closer, Luke Gregerson. In vintage Gregerson fashion, he retired the side in order, inducing two ground balls before ending the game with his slider:
After last night, there should be no more doubt about the World Baseball Classic. This tournament is for real-- the games are intense, the fans are loud, and players play with emotion you just don’t see every day in the MLB.
There something different about representing your home country on an international stage. The games are about so much more than just the players, or even the teams. They're about national pride and making citizens proud. Every MLB player should do everything they can to get themselves involved.
The US will make their first ever WBC finals appearance tonight against Carlos Correa and a talented team from Puerto Rico. The game will be broadcast at 9:00 pm ET on MLB Network.