It’s not often you get to see high intensity, competitive baseball games being played in the middle of March. However with the fourth installment of the World Baseball Classic well underway, we’ve gotten everything we could ask for in a tournament.
It’s had upsets, comebacks, players making a name for themselves, and even a handful of walk-offs. Friday night, the United States treated fans to a dramatic walk-off win against Colombia and left baseball fans in Miami eager for the next game.
The game started far from planned for the United States. Colombia starter and Chicago White Sox’s ace, Jose Quintana, kept the star-studded lineup hitless for 5 ⅔ innings. However, the United States had an ace of their own on the mound in Tampa Bay Rays’ Chris Archer, who threw four perfect innings and kept the game knotted at zero. The defense was superb on both sides of the field, with terrific plays from Tito Polo and Jesus Valdez on the Colombian side, and Nolan Arenado and Brandon Crawford on the American side.
Colombia were the first to break into the hit column, and were thrilled to see Archer out of the game. The United State brought in Mychal Givens of the Baltimore Orioles, who yielded the game’s’ first hit, as well as its first two runs. A pair of RBI doubles had Colombia on top of the United States 2-0, with the American bats still silent.
This would all end in the bottom of the sixth, started by a simple two-out single by Brandon Crawford, breaking up the no-hitter, and getting the ball rolling for the United States. Ian Kinsler followed it up with another single, bringing Adam Jones to the plate. The Baltimore Orioles’ star delivered the biggest hit of the night to that point for the Americans, with a huge RBI double down the left field line. But the Americans weren’t done yet. With runners on second and third, Nolan Arenado stepped to the plate.
I’ve been all for the WBC for years now, but it was Arenado’s at-bat in the bottom of the sixth that, based off of the reactions in the room, really sold the deal for a lot of other people. Two outs, runners on second and third, down 2-1 against a team that were viewed to be just a warmup game for the Americans. Arenado would go down in the count 0-2 but would work it back to 2-2. Colombian pitcher William Cuevas delivered an 80 mph curveball in the dirt, Arenado swung and turned to the dugout in disappointment. Hope was lost for a split second until the American bench screamed at Arenado that the ball had gotten through the catcher. He broke into an all out sprint towards first. Jhonatan Solana grabbed the ball and fired it to first. Arenado dove head first into the base. Safe.
Kinsler scores, and Arenado jumps to his feet and displayed the kind of emotion we’re accustomed to seeing in the postseason. But the Americans weren’t done there. With new life and a burst of adrenaline, the United States were able to keep Colombia at bay past regulation, and into the tenth inning.
Christian Yelich would work a one-out walk in the bottom of the tenth, followed by another to Brandon Crawford, bringing up Adam Jones in a crucial spot once again. Just like we saw David Wright do in 2013, Jones delivered in a huge spot again with a line-drive single to center field. Yelich crossed the plate, and the American dugout flooded the field to maul their hero.
The WBC may get a bad rap for being unnecessary, and not taken as seriously by players as it should be. Well aside from some superstars and critical members of front offices, this is far from the case. Players are taking it very seriously, and it was undeniable from the emotions the United States and Colombia showed on the field last night. The United States will be back at it against the reigning champs, the Dominican Republic, on Saturday night. They’ll be playing in front of a sold-out Miami crowd, in what is sure to be an instant classic. Who says this tournament means nothing?