Late Inning Heroics Push US Past Venezuela
March 16, 2017
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If I asked “are you watching the World Baseball Classic”? You, along with thousands of others would have the same answer, “NO.”
Well, you have been missing out! Not only are the best baseball players representing their countries, but fans from all over the world have packed stadiums to support their countries as well. Cinderella story Israel went 3-0 in group play and then defeated Cuba in the first game of the second round, Italy and Venezuela played an insane 10 inning game that ended 11-10, and The Dominican Republic rallied back from a 5-0 deficit to defeat the United States. The fans have brought the intense atmosphere by bringing the unique celebrations from their culture to the game with them. We have seen the Dominicans dancing, blowing horns, and waving their flags. We have seen the Japanese banging their drums and singing songs and the citizens of the U.S. covered in red, white, and blue.
Wednesday night, in their 4-2 victory over Venezuela, Eric Hosmer hit a two-run home run to right-center field to give the U.S. the
Drew Smyly was the starter chosen to take the mound against Venezuela and he looked like his former self. Smyly had a disappointing 2016 posting a 4.88 ERA in 175.1 innings. Last night he looked like the Smyly the Ray’s gave up David Price for in the three-team deal in 2014. He ended his day striking out eight batters, while only giving up one earned run in his 4.2 innings of work.
Venezuela chose to start Mariners ace Felix Hernandez. To MLB fans the site of “King” Felix on the mound meant that this game could be low scoring. Even at the age of 30, he is considered one of the better pitchers in the league and the leader of the Mariners pitching staff. Hernandez ended up throwing five scoreless innings against the U.S., yielding three hits and striking out three.
The U.S. had a very lackluster performance offensively. Adam Jones grounded into a bases loaded double play to end the third and the team could not capitalize on the many scoring opportunities that were given to them. The U.S. had six runners left in scoring position with zero RBI hits. Their only run before the eighth came on a sac fly.
Venezuela was also held in check offensively. After a third inning sacrifice fly by Ender Inciarte, Venezuela did not score until a ball hit by Rougned Odor in the seventh snuck over the right-center fence. You would not have known the bats of Venezuela would fall quiet. The first batter of the game, Jose Altuve, laid down a nifty drag bunt then beat out the throw by Smyly. To make things worse Martin Prado, the Marlins third baseman, came up lame after a ground ball in the top of the sixth. He would not return to the game. Venezuela ended the game with only five hits out of 29 at bats, leaving just one runner in scoring position.
The eighth inning is when the U.S. got their bats jumpstarted. San Diego native and Morse High School alum., Adam Jones, got the party started with a blast to left-center field. After a Nolan Arenado fly out, Christian Yelich hit a single up the middle. Next up to the plate was Eric Hosmer. On the first pitch Hosmer belted a high 95 mph fastball by pitcher Hector Rondon into the right-center bleachers, a hit that ended up being the game winner. “After that swing from Jonesy, it just seemed like the energy in the dugout just kind of shifted to our side and really got things sparked up for our club.” Said Hosmer in a post-game interview with MLB.com. What had been a quiet night in San Diego quickly became a stadium engulfed in celebration. The partially filled Petco Park erupted with chants of “USA, USA, USA.”
In a post-game interview with MLB.com USA team manager Jim Leyland weighed in on the game. “We won a game against an unbelievable lineup. We’re going to come back and play Friday against a team that’s been really, really playing good. So, it doesn’t get any easier. All these teams that are here now are outstanding teams.”
The U.S. plays Puerto Rico next on Friday at 7 P.M. at Petco Park