Wow. Baseball can be pretty fun, huh?
The Dominicans outlast team USA in an incredibly tense, well-pitched game which will go a long way to helping the WBC earn the “classic” part of its name.
Pinch hitter Erick Aybar drove in the go-ahead run after Nelson Cruz doubled to right field off the Braves dominant closer (this is the part where you remember Craig Kimbrel game up ONE DOUBLE all of last season.)
After Aybar stole second base, Jose Reyes drove him home with a solid single to center, setting the decidedly pro-Dominican crowd at Marlins Park into a frenzy and the Dominican Republic off to the semis in San Francisco. Not before expressing his own unique joy, as seen above.
Team USA must now defeat Puerto Rico if they want to progress in the event. Wow, what a game.
This game wasn’t an advertisement for the World Baseball Classic – it was an advertisement for baseball. Terrific pitching created incredible drama as both teams used their very deep bullpens to great effect. Team USA grabbed the early lead after Eric Hosmer walked with the bases loaded in the first inning. Twins pitcher Samuel Deduno escaped the jam with minimal damage, striking out Adam Jones to end the inning.
Hanley Ramirez got the run back for the Dominicans with a massive bomb off R.A. Dickey the very next inning. That was it for the offense as the starters both pitched brilliantly the rest of the way. R.A. Dickey did R.A. Dickey things, which look like this:
The pitch counts are still in play during the second round of games so the bullpens stepped up for their teams. Pedro Strop made believers out of everyone when he threw a dominant eighth inning for the DR while Steve Cishek was equally impressive for the US.
Someone tell Pedro Strop that a 97-mph fastball isn’t supposed to have that kind of life.
— Ben Badler (@BenBadler) March 15, 2013
Strop was just one of a the five dominant relievers from the Dominican bullpen to make a significant contribution. As a group they gave up just a single hit in five innings of work, striking out two hitters along the way. Special mention to Kelvin Herrera, who mowed down Giancarlo Stanton with pure, unadulterated cheese at the knees, almost daring the slugger to get around on his heat.
DR manager Tony Pena will get a bunch of credit for his late-game moves. Not pinch hitting for Miguel Tejada in the bottom of the seventh inning with two runners on and two out. Pena did not ask Carlos Santana to bunt in the 9th inning and while Santana did not reward Pena with a base hit, he did “get his job done” by moving the runner along.
Joe Torre, well, credit to him for getting Kimbrel in the game in a non-save situation. It didn’t actually work out but that surely won’t stop him from doing the same thing again… Team USA was without David Wright, whose future in the WBC is in doubt thanks to a nagging rib injury.
Wright will travel back to the Mets Spring Training facility to be checked out by their doctors. Consider his status “in doubt” until the Mets officially pull the plug. His replacement, Willie Bloomquist, looked pretty Bloomquisty in Captain America’s place.
Torre also opted to leave Ben Zobrist on the bench again, pinch hitting with the Rays secret weapon in the ninth for catcher J.P. Arencibia, starting in his hometown of Miami and looking competent (?) catching knuckerballer R.A. Dickey. I don’t know where Zobrist fits into the lineup but if he can’t play third, team USA is in trouble as they cannot name a replacement for Wright until the next round begins.
The atmosphere at Marlins Park was incredible. Dominican fans banged drums, honked horns, blew whistles and made all manner of racket as they ecstatically rooted on the “visitors.” The Dominican players looked like they were having just as much fun, celebrating wildly and generally having themselves a time.
A great night for baseball – though not one without controversy. How plate umpire Angel Hernadez made several bizarre ball/strike calls, none more extreme than the called strike against Erick Aybar in the ninth inning. Aybar was livid with the call, though he quickly forgot as he singled in the go-ahead run shortly after.
Team USA is in tough against the Puerto Ricans, again facing the prospect of a hostile crowd within the borders of their own country. Hopefully another night of unforgettable baseball awaits fans of the World Baseball Classic. As far as serving as a tool to grow the game worldwide, seems like it is doing a pretty good job to me.