It's getting down to the wire in the 2013 World Baseball Classic as USA Baseball attempts to capture its first WBC title in its history.
The Americans have already looked much better than they did in the past two WBCs, led by some big-time infielders and impressive pitching. They did hit a speed bump on Thursday against the Dominican Republic, but have a chance to secure a spot in the Championship Round with a win over Puerto Rico on Friday.
USA's best finish in the Classic came in 2009, when the Americans placed fourth. But, given the talent on this squad, it would be a disappointment if it didn't win the championship this year.
Here's a look at the Americans soaring so far in the 2013 WBC.
David Wright, 3B, New York Mets
You can't talk about USA this year without talking about David Wright. The New York Mets third baseman was hitting .438 with one home run, 10 RBI and four runs in four games headed into Thursday's action against the Dominican Republic.
That included breaking the game open with a three-run double against Puerto Rico on Tuesday.
You could tell how important Wright was to the U.S. lineup against the Dominican Republic on Thursday night. He was scratched from the lineup (h/t MLB.com) with a back injury that could keep him out the rest of the event, and the U.S. could muster just one run on six hits in the 3-1 loss.
BREAKING: @USABaseball 3B David Wright OUT with sore back. Willie Bloomquist will play 3B.3/14/2013, 10:52:56 PM
Team USA has scored 25 runs so far in this event. Wright has been part of 14 of those runs (10 RBI, four runs scored). That is a huge hole for Joe Torre to fill, if he has the time depending on what happens Friday night against Puerto Rico.
Joe Mauer, C/1B, Minnesota Twins
Headed into USA's clash with the Dominican Republic on Thursday, Joe Mauer was hitting .429 (6-for-14, two doubles) with two RBI and three runs. The Minnesota Twins catcher continued his hot-hitting against the Dominicans, collecting two hits in four at-bats.
But it's about more than Mauer's contributions at the plate. He's also been excellent behind the dish, leading left-hander Gio Gonzalez and the Americans to a 7-1 victory against Puerto Rico on Tuesday.
It's no secret that when Mauer's healthy he's one of the most complete catchers in the world.
Gio Gonzalez, SP, Washington Nationals
Gio Gonzalez was magnificent on Tuesday against Puerto Rico. When USA needed a win to advance, the 27-year-old left-hander stepped up to the challenge.
Gonzalez tossed five scoreless innings against the Puerto Ricans, allowing just three hits and notching five strikeouts in the process. That included holding major leaguers Angel Pagan, Alex Rios, Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina to a combined 3-for-16.
Then again, it's not exactly a surprise given Gonzalez posted a 2.89 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 207 strikeouts in 199.1 innings last season with the Washington Nationals.
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