USA and the Dominican Republic entered Friday night's heavy weight bout in what would be a unique situation for the Dominicans. They were playing in a win or go home scenario.
If they won they would play Japan in the semi-finals while if they lost they would be eliminated from the WBC. Many predicted the DR would rise to the occasion, yet again and pull through victorious, but that wasn't the case this go around.
The Dominicans started off hot scoring two runs in the first inning. After a one-out throwing error by Brandon Crawford allowed Manny Machado to reach base, Robinson cano would double him home. The next batter would be Nelson Cruz. Cruz would strike out but reach first on a wild pitch from Danny Duffy.
The US fans seemed to be experiencing deja vu as the first inning implosions were happening all over again. Just as they fell behind fast in the first inning against Puerto Rico, they were falling victim to the same ill fates against the Dominicans. By the end of the first inning, it was already 2-0 Dominicans.
So what change? How did the US overcome another poor start? Danny Duffy would first begin to get it together on the mound. Going into the top of the third inning, it was still 2-0. With Lucroy and Stanton coming to the plate, they would both record singles putting runners on the corners with nobody out. Ian Kinsler would ground out allowing Stanton to score. A couple batters later, Yelich would produce a double effectively tying the game at two.
The score would remain the same until the top of the 4th when Brandon Crawford would single followed by a 403-foot bomb by Giancarlo Stanton. This would give the Americans a 4-2 lead. This lead would hold until the bottom of the seventh where two plays made quite the difference both in momentum and in scoring.
Manny Machado would enter the batter's box to lead off the inning. He would hit an absolute rocket to dead center field, but to the shock of everyone Adam Jones made an incredible catch over the wall robbing him of that jack. After Jones came down with the ball, Machado would tip his hat as he rounded the bases and Machado would do the same in return with a little bow. The next batter up was Robinson Cano. He would hit a bomb, but this time nobody was stealing that out of the night's sky.
I was grabbing food at the time when these two back-to-back plays occurred with a friend of mine who works with NBC News and he just jumped up in excitement when that catch was made exclaiming how incredible the catch was. Just a few seconds before the catch, he said "where's the home runs from Adam Jones tonight? He owns Petco Park" I said to him after Cano's home run, "that catch was game changing. It completely made the difference in momentum." There is an argument that can be made that had Jones not caught that ball despite the obvious fact that the game would have been tied, the Dominican Republic would have seized momentum effectively turning around the potential outcome.
"Off the bat it was just like this ball is hit really far, so just keep going, just never quit that's just how the style I play with," Jones said about his game-saving catch. "I don't mind running into a wall or two so I just kept going after the ball."
The US would tack on a couple insurance runs in the top of the 8th and ultimately never look back. A 6-3 victory for the Americans over the always dangerous and highly favored Dominican Republic.
Giancarlo Stanton and Adam Jones were asked their opinions of the Japanese style of play and how they felt about their next opponent in the tournament.
"The style the Japanese play with is great," Jones said about the Japanese playing style. "They play clean baseball. They are fundamentally sound. They hit behind the runners. They hit and run. They pitch. I know our style here is a little bit different with more power more power pitchers but at the end of the day if you fielding and catch the ball and throw the ball to the right bases good things happen and I've watched Ichiro over and over just put the ball right on the money and play a clean style of baseball. I respect the crap out of japanese baseball japanese players and just how they carry their business."
"They're fun to watch, very unique style, unique ways of pitching, the high leg kicks," Stanton commented. "It's very cool and that's what makes this tournament cool. You see all the different countries dynamics and how they do things different."
TeamUSA and Japan will play in the second semifinal game of the WBC in Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday at 9:00 PM ET. The winner will play on Wednesday for the Gold Medal against the winner of Monday night's matchup between Puerto Rico the Netherlands.