Giancarlo Stanton’s two-run homer gave Team USA the lead in the fourth, and the Americans hung on for a 6-3 win over the Dominican Republic to take second place in Pool F and advance to the World Baseball Classic semifinals in Los Angeles.
Like Friday’s loss to Puerto Rico, the US fell behind early in the first. This time, it was able to climb all the way back, take the lead and preserve it against the reigning champions.
American starter Danny Duffy allowed two runs — one earned — in four-plus innings. Sam Dyson provided the best relief work by retiring all five batters he faced.
Robinson Cano homered and doubled in a run. Dominican starter Ervin Santana allowed four runs in 3 2⁄3 innings.
Team USA will now face two-time champion Japan in a one-game semifinal on Tuesday. Puerto Rico and the Netherlands meet on Monday.
After Stanton’s bomb gave the US the lead, its lineup could not gain any traction against the Dominican bullpen, allowing its rival to remain in the game. Tyler Clippard began his second inning of work in the seventh holding a 4-2 lead. Manny Machado led off by driving a ball to deep center field that looked certain to cut the lead in half, but Adam Jones made an incredible leaping catch to take away a home run from his Orioles teammate.
In left field, Christian Yelich was unable to duplicate that catch on Cano’s drive to left field. His home run made it a 4-3 game and ended Clippard’s night.
The Americans finally rediscovered their offense in the eighth against Alex Colome. Yelich led off with a walk, and Eric Hosmer was hit by a pitch to put two runners on for Andrew McCutchen. McCutchen came through with a double to add two valuable insurance runs.
After a 1-2-3 eighth for Dyson, Luke Gregerson sat down all three batters he faced to punch Team USA’s ticket to Los Angeles, where it will play Japan, the team that knocked them out of the semifinals, the only other time the US has reached the round, in 2009.
A Nolan Arenado error that allowed the eventual winning run to score loomed large in that Friday loss to Puerto Rico. Saturday’s first inning looked to be a repeat. This time, the gold glover to commit a key error was Brandon Crawford. That mistake allowed Machado to reach base, and he scored on Cano’s double. He scored on a Carlos Santana single, and Crawford then atoned for his earlier mistake. Starling Marte grounded a ball to shortstop, but instead of attempting to turn a double play, he fired home to cut down Nelson Cruz trying to score a third run.
The Dominican Republic was undeterred, though, and attempted to tack on more runs in the second. After Gregory Polanco singled, Welington Castillo doubled to put two in scoring position with none out. Duffy battled back to get Jose Reyes, Machado and Cano to strand both runners.
A half inning later, Team USA had an opportunity to score and took advantage of it. Stanton poked a hit to right field, and a successfully executed hit-and-run from Stanton and Jonathan Lucroy put runners on the corners with nobody out. Ian Kinsler got his team on the board with an RBI groundout up the middle of the diamond, and Yelich tied the game with a two-out double to score Kinsler.
With two outs in the fourth, Crawford singled to bring Stanton to the plate. On a first-pitch fastball, he lined a no-doubt home run to left field to give the US a 4-2 lead, send the crowd into a frenzy, and end Santana’s start.
Duffy settled in after the first couple innings, and manager Jim Leyland hoped to stretch him through five innings. After allowing a leadoff hit to Machado, Pat Neshek was summoned to face Cano. Cano popped out, but Cruz doubled to put the potential tying run in scoring position. Santana popped out, and Neshek struck out Marte to preserve the two-run edge.
Unlike last Saturday’s game when Team USA blew a 5-0 lead to the Dominican Republic, the American bullpen was able to get out of any trouble it found itself in. Dominican hitters went just 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position and left eight runners on base.