Team USA wins a thriller

WBC’s de­fend­ing champs elim­i­nated be­fore loud sell­out crowd in San Diego.

Los Angeles Times - - BASEBALL - bill.shaikin@la­times.com Twit­ter: @Bil­lShaikin Bill Shaikin

SAN DIEGO — This was the best of the World Base­ball Clas­sic, the kind of night that brought to life the vi­sion of this tour­na­ment: a sell­out crowd, a nine-in­ning ser­e­nade of chants and cow­bells and drums and horns, and a thriller be­tween two of the world’s best teams.

It was loud. It was fun. It was tense.

And it was won by the United States, the team so of­ten shamed for not per­suad­ing its best play­ers to par­tic­i­pate and not get­ting a cham­pi­onship per­for­mance out of the play­ers that do.

Gian­carlo Stan­ton launched an epic home run for the game-win­ning hit, Adam Jones launched him­self high above the out­field fence to make an epic catch, and Team USA beat the Do­mini­can Repub­lic, 6-3, in an elim­i­na­tion game Satur­day at Petco Park.

For the Do­mini­cans, the de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons, fail­ing to qual­ify for the cham­pi­onship round is a na­tional sin. The Amer­i­cans, who have never won the WBC, ad­vanced to a semi­fi­nal game Tues­day against Ja­pan, the coun­try that won the first two edi­tions of the tour­na­ment.

The U.S. beat the Do­mini­can Repub­lic for the first time in WBC his­tory and avenged a first-round loss this month in which it blew a five-run lead to the Do­mini­cans.

For the U.S. team, which has heard quite enough about how Clayton Ker­shaw and Mike Trout and Bryce Harper and so many other Amer­i­can lu­mi­nar­ies are not here, this was a sweet tri­umph for those that were here.

“There were a lot of peo­ple that re­spect­fully de­clined, and we’re not go­ing to throw any­body un­der the bus,” Man­ager Jim Ley­land said. “We’re go­ing to honor the peo­ple that ac­cepted and are here. … That’s the only team I’m talk­ing about. And right now that’s the only team I care about. And these play­ers that are here are the only play­ers I care about right now.”

In the sev­enth in­ning, with the U.S. nurs­ing a 4-2 lead, Jones soared high above the cen­ter-field fence to rob Manny Machado — his Bal­ti­more Ori­oles team­mate — of a home run. The fans there did not ex­actly clear out for Jones, in­creas­ing what was al­ready a very high de­gree of dif­fi­culty on the catch.

“I'm still in kind of shock that I even got to that ball,” Jones said.

The spec­tac­u­lar play be­came even more crit­i­cal when Robin­son Cano fol­lowed with what would have been a game-ty­ing home run; the Jones catch meant the Amer­i­cans car­ried that 4-3 lead into the eighth in­ning.

An­drew McCutchen’s two-run dou­ble in the eighth pro­vided a wel­come chance for the Amer­i­cans to ex­hale.

Gre­gory Bull As­so­ci­ated Press

U.S. OUT­FIELDER Adam Jones robs the Do­mini­can Repub­lic of a home run with a spec­tac­u­lar catch in the sev­enth in­ning of Satur­day’s game.

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