Saturday marked the final day of second-round action at the 2017 World Baseball Classic, headlined by the United States-Dominican Republic game that sent the U.S. to Los Angeles for the championship round.
The Netherlands, Puerto Rico and Japan have already punched their tickets to the semifinals. Japan and Puerto Rico are the only undefeated teams left in the tournament, with Puerto Rico putting its record on the line Saturday against Venezuela.
Here are the results from Saturday's action at Petco Park in San Diego, along with reaction and analysis from each game.
|2017 World Baseball Classic Results - Saturday, March 18|
|Matchup||Final Score/Start Time (ET)|
|Puerto Rico vs. Venezuela||Puerto Rico def. Venezuela, 13-2|
|United States vs. Dominican Republic||United States def. Dominican Republic, 6-3|
Puerto Rico 13, Venezuela 2
Puerto Rico looks close to unstoppable in the World Baseball Classic, blowing Venezuela out 13-2 to put the cherry on top of its run in the second round.
The Puerto Rican team wasted no time putting pressure on Venezuela, taking a 1-0 lead in the first inning on T.J. Rivera's RBI groundout.
Venezuela was able to keep things close for the first half of the game, trailing 3-0 after five innings. The problem is Puerto Rico's pitchers weren't giving up anything. Five pitchers combined to allow five hits and record seven strikeouts.
Things fell apart for Venezuela when Puerto Rico scored five runs in the seventh inning, immediately after the Venezuelans got on the board in the sixth when Rougned Odor homered.
Puerto Rico would add three more runs over the eighth and ninth innings to extend its lead to 13-2. Kennys Vargas delivered the final blow with a two-run homer in the ninth.
Per Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times, Puerto Rico's run differential is now off the charts through six games:
Bill Shaikin @BillShaikin
WBC heads to LA with 2 undefeated teams: Puerto Rico (6-0) outscored opponents 51-15. Japan (6-0) outscored opponents 46-22.3/18/2017, 11:03:57 PM
The depth on Puerto Rico's roster has been incredible throughout this tournament and came into play again on Saturday. Every starter had at least one hit, while eight starters had at least one run scored and seven had at least one RBI.
This was also a game in which Puerto Rico didn't use Francisco Lindor, Javier Baez, Carlos Beltran or Yadier Molina.
Puerto Rico's previous best finish at the World Baseball Classic was as the runner-up in 2013. It will be a disappointment if this team leaves Los Angeles next week without a championship.
United States 6, Dominican Republic 3
The United States was able to avenge an earlier loss against the Dominican Republic and punch a ticket to the World Baseball Classic semifinals with a 6-3 win in the final game of the second round.
Things looked bleak for Team USA early when an RBI double by Robinson Cano and RBI single by Carlos Santana put the Dominicans up 2-0 in the bottom of the first.
USA starter Danny Duffy was reeling to start the second inning after Gregory Polanco singled and Welington Castillo doubled to put guys on second and third before he retired the next three hitters to escape the damage.
The U.S. responded by tying the game in the top of the third inning and taking the lead in the top of the fourth on this laser from Giancarlo Stanton.
Since that ball left the stadium so quickly, MLB's director of baseball research and development Daren Willman helped put Stanton's blast into perspective:
Daren Willman @darenw
Holy moly... Stanton can smash baseballs. https://t.co/RKrh47xSYj3/19/2017, 3:36:18 AM
Things would stay that way until the bottom of the seventh. Manny Machado led off the inning and thought he brought the Dominican Republic back to within one run with a homer off USA reliever Tyler Clippard, but his Baltimore Orioles teammate Adam Jones had other ideas, per WBC Baseball:
WBC Baseball @WBCBaseball
Mr. Jones … we don't know why and we don't know how. https://t.co/lS7eeaaisJ #WBC2017 https://t.co/JbGgk1ma9U3/19/2017, 5:26:15 AM
Going back to Willman for help, the ball Jones caught is almost always a home run when it's hit like that:
Daren Willman @darenw
The ball Adam Jones just caught is a HR 94% of the time. 106 MPH at a 26 degree launch angle. Wow amazing. https://t.co/l8vNfyFIx13/19/2017, 5:01:04 AM
Jones' heroics would prove to be especially meaningful because Cano was up right after Machado and did homer to the opposite field. USA manager Jim Leyland brought in Sam Dyson to relieve Clippard after that to hold the score at 4-3.
The United States' knack for late-inning runs showed up again in the eighth inning when Andrew McCutchen provided some insurance with a double into the left-center field gap, per MLB Network:
MLB Network @MLBNetwork
Insurance. Courtesy of @TheCUTCH22. #WBC2017 #ForGlory 🇺🇸 https://t.co/MwZurkjAGP3/19/2017, 5:28:39 AM
The USA pitching staff deserves a lot of credit for the win. Duffy and four relievers combined to allow five hits and one run after the first two reached in the second inning.
The win sets the United States up against Japan in the second semifinal that will be played on Tuesday. This is also the first time Team USA has made it out of pool play since 2009.
The Dominican Republic's loss guarantees there will be a new champion crowned in the World Baseball Classic with the final four officially set.