Better than any Spring Training team!
This year’s World Baseball Classic got underway on March 6, 2017. Not many of you were awake at 4:30am EST when Sam Fuld stepped into the batters box for Team Israel. By the end of the day, Israel and Korea provided the baseball world with a microcosm of things to come. Fuld and his Israeli teammates beat Korea in extra innings and later scored upset victories over Cuba and the Netherlands.
Over the years, the World Baseball Classic has provided us with several great stories. The Israeli team provided us with a great underdog story early in the tournament.
The Dominican Republic took the WBC crown in 2013 while Japan celebrated the title in 2006 and 2009. Entering the classic, Team USA held a pedestrian 10-10 record, but many argued that this was the year for the Americans to win the title.
Pool C in Miami was a battle between USA, Canada, Columbia, and the Dominican Republic. Only two teams would advance out of the first round and Team USA needed extra innings to dispose of the Columbians in game one. Baltimore Orioles outfielder, Adam Jones was the hero of the night when he delivered a walk-off single in the 10th inning.
The highly-anticipated match-up between the USA and Dominican Republic was a tale of two halves. Team USA got out to an early 3-0 lead, collecting six hits off of Edinson Volquez. The Dominicans entered the bottom-of-the-sixth trailing by five runs.
Just when Team USA thought they had the game in control, the DR came fighting back. Staked to a two-run advantage in the eighth inning, Cleveland Indians reliever Andrew Miller gave up four runs on three hits, two of which were home runs. After Mets closer Jeurys Familia shut the door on the Americans, their WBC future was unclear.
Fortunately for Team USA, they entered the final game of pool play knowing that a victory over Canada would secure a spot in the second round. Canada proved to be no-contest for the Americans. Kansas City Royals ace Danny Duffy struck out seven batters in four scoreless innings. While Ryan Dempster could not get out of the first inning for Canada. USA rolled to an 8-0 victory.
Second round action saw the USA square off against a Venezuelan team led by Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera. Venezuela held a 2-1 lead entering the bottom-of-the-eighth inning. Now it was time for Team USA to provide some late-inning heroics. Enter Adam Jones…again!
Jones tied the game with a solo home run. Three batters later, Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer gave USA the lead with a two-run shot. The 4-2 victory over Venezuela propelled the Americans into a match-up against undefeated Puerto Rico. The Puerto Ricans would remain unblemished as they held on for a 6-5 victory. The loss for Team USA set up a win-or-go-home game with the Dominican Republic.
Petco Park in San Diego was the scene for the highly anticipated rematch.
With the score tied at two, Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton made his presence felt. Stanton blasted a two-run shot to deep left field. You have to see it to realize just how incredible it was!
What a ball game we have in San Diego!
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) March 19, 2017
The mammoth blast helped propel Team USA past the Dominican Republic and into the semi-finals. However, the Stanton home run was not even the best play of the game. Trailing 6-2 in the seventh inning, Dominican third baseman Manny Machado came to bat against Tyler Clippard. If you haven’t seen it yet, well here you go…
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) March 19, 2017
Yes, that is Adam Jones robbing his Baltimore Orioles teammate of a home run!
Adam Jones does it all.
The four remaining teams in the 2017 World Baseball Classic were USA, Japan, Netherlands, and Puerto Rico. The undefeated Puerto Rican team needed extra innings to get by Team Netherlands. Now, it was the Americans chance to do something they had never done. Play for the WBC title!
If Team USA was going to take home the crown they were going to have to win consecutive games against the 2013 champion, the 2006 and 2009 champion, and then the 2013 runner-up.
Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles provided the setting for the battle against Japan. Had the Americans lost to Japan in the semi’s it would have been acceptable. The baseball world recognizes Japan as one of the best countries in the world for baseball talent. This US team did not want to settle for another semi-final loss.
Adam Jones did it again when his grounder to third base was bobbled by Japanese third baseman Nabuhiro Matsuda. Brandon Crawford scored for Team USA securing a 2-1 victory and a date with Puerto Rico in the WBC Finals.
Oddly enough, the WBC provided us with many dramatic games and climactic finishes. The championship game between Puerto Rico and the United States was not that way. As if they were playing with a chip on their shoulder, Team USA steamrolled the Puerto Ricans. Ian Kinsler led the way with an early two-run home run. The incredible run of Team USA vaulted them to an 8-0 victory and the title of World Baseball Classic champions.
Marcus Stroman delivered a performance for the ages as he went six innings allowing just one hit. Stroman gave up a lead-off single to Angel Pagan in the seventh and that was it. Manager Jim Leyland took the ball from the Blue Jays hurler who exited to a standing ovation from the crowd.
Puerto Rico would not score a run.
Team USA took home the World Baseball Classic championship and after his near perfect performance, Marcus Stroman captured MVP honors.
Not everyone is a fan of international baseball and that’s fine. However, seeing the passion displayed by these teams representing their country, you’re not going to get that in the Grapefruit League!
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