With a fired-up crowd in Phoenix, Ariz., Team USA captain Mike Trout hit a go-ahead two-run single in the 5th inning to drive in Mookie Betts and Will Smith. Trout went 3 for 4 with a triple and drove in all three runs, which secured them the eighth spot in the WBC quarter-finals.
“I just think he’s one of the best players of all time at the end of the day,” said USA manager Mark DeRosa about Trout on MLB. “That bullet he hit to right to start it off was pretty special. He looks really good at the dish. He’s just super confident in what he’s able to do.”
But, Wednesday night’s game against Colombia wasn’t filled only with glory and excitement after their narrow 3-2 win; instead, it showed many fans that the USA would not be an easy shoo-in into the following stages of the WBC as many thought they would be.
Undoubtedly, this is USA’s best WBC roster in years. On a team stacked with superstar players bonded to multi-million dollar contracts in Major League Baseball, fans wonder why their performance was lacking in the previous pool games, even though they managed to pull out wins.
USA tied with Mexico finishing first in the pool B games 3-1 but fell behind in three of its four games.
The USA opened up the WBC tournament against Great Britain. In the first inning, the USA fell behind due to a home run from Great Britain’s Trayce Thompson. Unfazed, USA starting pitcher Adam Wainwright returned in the 2nd, going four innings with four strikeouts and one walk. The team’s offense backed him up with RBIs by Nolan Arenado and Kyle Tucker. A bomb by Kyle Schwarber in the 4th clinched a 6-2 win for the USA.
Coming off a convincing first-game win, the USA faced Mexico in one of North America’s highest anticipated sports games of the year. Mexico wasted no time getting started.
In the 1st inning, Mexico’s Jose Meneses launched a two-run homer placing Mexico in the lead. When Meneses returned in the top of the 4th, he blasted a three-run homer over the left field wall to put Mexico up 7-1. FOX Sports:MLB tweeted, “BREAK OUT THE HOME RUN SOMBRERO!”
USA managed to answer with one run in the bottom of the 7th on account of a Will Smith home run, but Mexico showed no sign of stopping. They added four runs in the top of the 8th from Randy Arozarena, Rowdy Tellez, and Alan Trejo’s RBIs. But, in the end, Mexico stunned the USA, winning 11-5.
So what went wrong during the game? Pitching.
The USA used eight pitchers, over half of their pitching rotation, during the game. According to MLB, “the nature of pitch-count limits (65 in Pool C play), and with all of Team USA’s pitchers having a Major League season to prepare,” this puts DeRosa in a challenging position because he is “searching for 27 outs while prioritizing player health.”
“I want nothing more than for these guys to repeat as champions and hold up,” DeRosa told MLB. “But, I’m not going to do anything to jeopardize these guys’ big league careers. I’m just not.”
Team USA’s devastating loss only made its run to the next stage of the WBC more interesting, and the WBC mercy rule became the team’s best friend.
The WBC mercy rule is when there is a 10-run deficit after seven innings. USA exploded and scored nine runs in the 1st, courtesy of a three-run bomb by captain Mike Trout. USA’s Trea
Turner jacked a solo home run bringing the score up 12-1.
The game ended when Canada was due to bat at the top of the 7th, handing the USA their second win of the tournament.
“A tough loss last night,” Trout said about Sunday’s loss to Mexico to MLB. “We came in today with a little more swagger. I think it woke us up a little bit. The message for us was to go out there and bang, be ourselves.”
Despite this, the American team spirit radiates through the dugout, which could be why they can stick it out in the tournament.
“It’s one of the best baseball experiences of my life what I had in ’17 because of how positive it was, how much fun I had,” first baseman Paul Goldschmidt said to MLB. “I was only halfway joking when I said that I begged to get on this team. I mean, I would have done anything.”
Regardless of previous games, there is no argument that the USA is relentless and, as shown repeatedly, that they can battle back when it matters the most. Fans shouldn’t count the USA out yet, as the defending champs might surprise everyone with a return to the championship. But, with a team of MLB players, they should be playing better.
Team USA will face the undefeated Venezuela team on Saturday in a win-or-go-home game at LoanDepot Park in Miami, Fla.