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Defense, Good Pitching, and Timely Hitting Carry Team USA into WBC Quarterfinals

In an almost must-win final game in Pool C, Team USA beats Team Colombia 3-2 to advance to the WBC Quarterfinals. Due to some elaborate tiebreaking scenarios, if Team USA lost this game, they still could’ve made it to the next round.

Lucky for the men in red, white, and blue, they didn’t have to worry once the game was finished.

The Los Angeles Ballplayers Generated All the Offense

This game didn’t feature much offense, but Team USA was able to scrape by with the help of good situational hitting. Los Angeles Dodgers teammates Mookie Betts and Will Smith combined to score Team USA’s three runs, while Los Angeles Angels and Team USA captain Mike Trout drove them in.

After two scoreless innings to begin the game, Colombia shifted their infield defense to the left side against Trout. He proceeded to break the tie with a single through the vacant right side, scoring Betts from second base.

Colombia would go on to take the lead in the bottom of the third inning, but that wouldn’t last long. After a Smith walk and a Betts single, Team USA found themselves with runners at second and third and their captain coming up to the plate.

On the second pitch of the at-bat, Trout pounced on a 77-mph curveball and drove it to left field, scoring both runners.

Trout’s offensive output in these last two games had his WBC manager singing praises for the All-Star.

“The best player in the world, Mike Trout, steps up in a big spot for us,” Mark DeRosa said.

Pitching and Defense Make the Fifth-Inning Lead Stand Up

Team USA starting pitcher Merrill Kelly didn’t have his best stuff last night, but he was able to get through three innings before giving the ball to the bullpen.

Kelly gave up two runs in three innings pitched, but the relief pitchers that followed made sure to have his back. Kendall Graveman, Daniel Bard, David Bednar, Jason Adam, Devin Williams, and Ryan Pressly combined to shut down Team Colombia’s hitters. In their six innings pitched, the relievers didn’t allow a run, only allowed two hits, and stuck out nine batters.

“We knew our bullpen was fresh,” DeRosa said. “Everybody was available and they did not disappoint. Just a conveyor belt of nasty stuff.”

Pitching wasn’t the only thing that kept the score locked at 3-2 and helped Team USA advance to the Quarterfinals. The United States’ defense helped their pitchers out in big spots as well.

In the bottom of the fifth inning, Smith caught a Team Colombia runner trying to steal second base. Initially ruled safe, replay review found that Smith’s throw and Tim Anderson‘s tag got to the runner just before he made it safely at second base.

As Team USA looks at the talent players they’ll face ahead of them, their defense will be an important factor in games that could be decided by the thinnest of margins.

By the Numbers

Trout played like a captain in his pool play run. He went 5-12 at the plate, hitting a triple, a home run, and driving in six runs. After a slow start in his first two games, Trout is heating up at the right time. Look for his bat to be a crucial part of Team USA’s success in the remainder of their run.

Team USA wasn’t very productive on offense when looking at the box score, only managing six hits on the night. However, they made the most of their scoring opportunities, going 3-6 in at-bats with runners in scoring position.

Team USA Made It to the Quarterfinals

The United States team leaves Phoenix finishing second in their pool behind Team Mexico. They will fly to Miami with the other seven quarterfinalist teams and play against the Pool D winner in Venezuela.

Looking ahead, Team Venezuela is stacked with major-league talent. From All-Star hitters like Jose Altuve, Salvador Perez, and Ronald Acuña Jr. to shut down pitchers like Luis Garcia, Pablo López, and José Alvarado, this is a balanced and formidable opponent for Team USA in the Quarterfinals.

Team USA faces Team Venezuela Saturday night in Miami at 7 PM ET. You can watch all the action take place on FOX.

Jonathan Hoffman

Jonathan Hoffman is a graduate student at Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism. He's a lifelong Dodgers fan from Los Angeles who grew up in a family full of Phillies fans. Follow on Twitter/X and Instagram @JHoff100 if you also obsess over Clayton Kershaw and sports uniforms.

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