Game over, USA wins 3-2
It was the Mike Trout Show. USA advances and will play Venezuela next.
PHOENIX -- It was win and move on Wednesday night for Team USA against Colombia in the 2023 World Baseball Classic and USA answered the call. Barely. USA won 3-2 thanks in large part to Mike Trout (you may have heard of him). The Americans will next face Venezuela in the quarterfinals on Saturday in Miami.
Let's take a look at how it went down at Arizona's Chase Field on Wednesday.
After his third at-bat, I started picturing Mike Trout doing a wrestling-style promo where he says something like "just in case you've forgotten who the hell I am ..." The best position player in the world was the best player in this game.
Trout tripled off the center-field wall in the first inning but was stranded on third base. Next at-bat, he singled home Mookie Betts with two outs for the first run of the game. Next time up it was the top of the fifth with USA trailing 2-1. Runners were on second and third. Yep, Trout did his thing again.
CAPTAIN AMERICA DELIVERS 🇺🇸— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) March 16, 2023
Team USA takes the lead!!
📺: WBC on FS1 pic.twitter.com/B0ALDjRo5m
It's also worth mentioning that in the bottom of the third, Colombia had already scored two runs and Meibrys Vilora sent a rocket to right-center that could have added another run. Instead, Trout ran it down for the final out of the inning.
Trout went 3 for 4 with a triple and all three USA RBI. If there were such a thing, he'd have been the game MVP in unanimous fashion.
We should point out Mookie Betts did his job in getting on base twice in front of Trout, scoring two of the three USA runs. Give Betts credit, but this game was mostly all about Trout carrying the USA offense.
USA finished pool play 3-1, but fell behind in three of its four games. The lone exception was when USA scored nine runs against Canada in the first inning. Moving to the quarterfinals and, possibly, beyond, USA will face much stiffer competition and it would behoove them to quit playing from behind.
There were certainly some loud outs and foul balls. Betts and Nolan Arenado both hit homer-distance fouls balls down the left-field line. Arenado's inning-ending double play in the first inning was well struck. Arenado and Kyle Schwarber both flew out to the warning track. Betts and Trea Turner lined out sharply to left field.
All this is to say that the offense probably collectively swung the bats better than three runs on seven hits sounds.
Still, it was only three runs on seven hits against a pitching staff with hardly any major-league caliber talent. The only extra-base hit was Trout's triple.
We've been watching baseball long enough to know it's not a game of small samples and we shouldn't make any sweeping judgments based upon said samples. Saying the USA offense is bad or even mediocre when it's actually loaded would be folly. Still, this is a tournament of small samples and, just to name one example, Japan has barely been challenged. USA isn't playing to its potential on the offensive end, save for that one huge rally against Canada. Perhaps it'll change next round.
The big weakness for Team USA heading into the World Baseball Classic wasn't really in question. It's the starting pitching. Diamondbacks' righty Merrill Kelly is 34 years old and has never been an All-Star and he got the ball in a game USA really needed to win. In three innings of work, he coughed up two runs on four hits and two walks against just one strikeout. It wasn't a strong performance. Then again, he didn't get crushed, either, and USA certainly should have provided more support.
As for the line of relievers who followed Kelly, they were mostly great. Kendall Graveman gave up a single but erased it with a pickoff to end his scoreless inning. Daniel Bard worked around a walk. David Bednar and Jason Adam were outstanding. Devin Williams and Ryan Pressly shut the door.
Venezuela went 4-0 in its pool, beating Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Israel and Nicaragua. The Venezuela roster includes a lot of familiar names, such as Jose Altuve, Ronald Acuña, Miguel Cabrera, Salvador Perez, Anthony Santander, Luis Arraez, Andrés Giménez, Eugenio Suárez, Gleyber Torres and, well, you get the point. They are loaded.
Adam Wainwright, who started the USA opener, figures to get the ball again on the mound, but nothing has been made official just yet.
It was the Mike Trout Show. USA advances and will play Venezuela next.
Trea Turner kicks a ball at short and Colombia has the tying run on first base. It was hit hard but that's a play Trea needs to -- and usually does -- make.
That was scary, but a flyout to Mookie Betts ranging down the line to the warning track is out number two
This is fun!
Arenado with an excellent stab at third base
Astros closer Ryan Pressly is coming in to nail this down. It's a shame we aren't getting his entrance from Minute Maid Park. It's amazing. It's done to Johnny Cash's "God's gonna cut you down"
Team USA is going to advance here unless Colombia ties it and then hits a walkoff grand slam. So if Colombia ties it and then loads the bases, USA could advance by just walking in the losing run. By the same token, Colombia might end up holding the winning run at third base until the bases are loaded. Would be pretty funny to see all of this.
This thing might be a tidy three hours even without a pitch clock. USA clinging to a 3-2 lead. It'll be Alonso, Cedric Mullins (he entered as a defensive replacement for Schwarber) and Tim Anderson looking for insurance.
There's no breathing room for USA, still. It's 3-2 and Brewers closer Devin Williams is on for setup duty, a role he's quite familiar with.
Bednar was dealing, as he's been known to do. He was an All-Star last year, remember?
USA is clinging to a 3-2 lead and Pirates reliever David Bednar is the new pitcher.
Anyway, the new pitcher is Yapson Gomez and he's never been above Double-A in affiliated ball.
The game itself has a good pace, but these pitching changes are prolonging the game and it's 12:10 a.m. ET.
(This isn't me whining as it's only 9:10 here and I'm fine with that ... just an observation)
It's 3-2 USA. Trout is 3 for 3 with all three RBI. He is, as they say, the freaking man. Let's also note he saved at least one run by running a ball in the gap down during Colombia's big inning.
It'll be Jasier Herrera. The 6-foot-5 righty has only one game above Class A.
Mookie Betts with a single to LF, Smith is held up at third base but the throw goes through to home plate, allowing Mookie to get to second base. It's second and third with one out for .... Mike Freaking Trout.
Turner strikes out. Rough game for him, which happens to the best of 'em in such small samples!
A wild pitch moves him to second. It's 1-2 to Trea Turner, who would surely like to atone for not making that play in front of the Colombia rally.
Galindo was all over the place with no command and no strikes.
It's 2-1 Colombia. USA is sending Will Smith, Trea Turner and Mookie Betts to the plate. Colombia is turning to Ruben Galindo, who had a 5.67 ERA in Class A last season. I'm not sure USA should mess around much longer before a loss becomes a realistic possibility. Many would focus on the lackluster pitching staff USA has put together, but one run in four innings against this pitching just ain't it.
Looks like Mark DeRosa will piece together the rest of the game with one-inning relievers. If he was going to use another starter for length, surely he would have brought him in now with a clean inning.
Pete Alonso, Kyle Schwarber and Tim Anderson all struck out against Jhon Romero.
A rocket to right center was run down by Mike Trout, who has been -- *SHOCKINGLY* -- the best player in this game.
Reynaldo Rodriguez doubles high off the center field wall and it's 2-1 with Jorge Alfaro scoring from first (he had reached on an infield single that Trea Turner probably should have handled).
A good percentage of US baseball fans won't know many of the Colombia players, but former Cleveland, Yankees, Twins player and current Angels player Gio Urshela will ring a bell. He hits a sac fly to center and it's 1-1.
A right-side grounder moves Mercado to third with one out. Kelly needs a strikeout or pop up, ideally.
Leadoff man Oscar Mercado doubles to deep center in his second at-bat. He's in scoring position with no out and 2-3-4 coming.
Both Schwarber and Arenado have missed HRs by a few feet in play. Both Betts and Arenado hit HR-length foul balls. USA is just barely missing on piling up the runs. It is 1-0 thanks to Trout's RBI single.
Arenado ended the first with two runners on by hitting into a double play. Two outs this time and Colombia is changing pitchers mid-inning again, likely much to the dismay of those in the eastern time zone
Trout follows Mookie's lead by punching a single to RF. Betts had advanced to second on a wild pitch, so he scores with ease. USA strikes first and here comes the NL MVP, Paul Goldschmidt.