USA Baseball: Players Who Must Step Up for Team to Advance

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USA Baseball: Players Who Must Step Up for Team to Advance
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

After a disappointing 5-2 loss to Mexico (box score via MLB.com) in its World Baseball Classic opener on Friday night, Team USA needs Brandon Phillips and Giancarlo Stanton to step up in order for the team to advance.

Before the team takes on Italy on Saturday, there needs to be some adjustments made by the players. Ryan Vogelsong is slated to take the mound in the second game, but it's the offense that needs to get ready to go.

Jimmy Rollins, Joe Mauer and David Wright all recorded multi-hit games in the opener, but the bottom third of the lineup went 0-for-10 with two walks.

Things will get better, but the team can't wait around too long before the bats wake up. The middle of the order showed up on Friday, but it was tough getting rallies going when there was no production out of the bottom of the lineup.

It will be important for Team USA to avoid falling behind again in the first inning. The offense has the firepower to come back, but the team could use a fast start.

Phillips and Stanton are two of the game's brightest stars, and they will be counted on to make plays as the tournament goes on.

 

Brandon Phillips

As the second baseman for the Cincinnati Reds, he is known for his flashy play. He makes more highlight plays than anyone in the league.

He will need to continue to flash the leather in the field, but he will be called upon to get on base for the heart of the lineup. As the No. 2 hitter, he needs to set the table for Ryan Braun, Wright and Mauer.

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Unfortunately for Team USA, Phillips went 0-for-4 and struck out twice in the opener. He was one of two starters who did not reach base in the game.

In the last three years, he has hit .298 in the No. 2 spot. The second baseman has a unique set of skills that combines power, average and speed. 

Phillips is at his best when he is swinging early in the count. He hit .301 last year when at-bats lasted less than two pitches, so expect him to come out swinging.

Team USA will take off when Phillips starts to get on base. There may not be a better middle of the lineup in the tournament, but they need guys on base ahead of them. Rollins got on base twice tonight, but Phillips will be the key to this lineup.

 

Giancarlo Stanton

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

When Giancarlo Stanton is the No. 7 hitter, it's a pretty good lineup.

He was part of the bottom third of the lineup that did not have a hit, but he will get rolling at some point. After hitting .290 and smashing 37 homers last year, the 23-year-old will be an important part of the lineup.

The right fielder did draw a walk, but the team needs him to be knocking in runs. He is one of the most dangerous hitters in the world, and his power is second to none.

In his career at Chase Field, he is a .333 hitter and has four home runs in only 39 at-bats.

Like Phillips, Stanton is unreal when swinging at the first two pitches. He hit .457 last year in at-bats that were over within two pitches. 

 

Conclusion

Team USA needs Phillips and Stanton to go to the plate ready to swing. They are at their best early in the count, and the team can't expect to win the tournament without them hitting well.

It's easy to overreact to one game, especially when it's a loss. Team USA faces Italy on Saturday and Canada on Sunday. 

The opening loss to Mexico is concerning, but it's not the end of the world. There are still games to be played, and the lineup is working through some early hiccups. Let's not forget that this team had to replace Mark Teixeira with Eric Hosmer late in the week.

It was a disappointing opener for Team USA, but Phillips and Stanton will be ready to lead their team to the next round. 

 

*All stats are from ESPN.com

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