World Baseball Classic: USA just gets by Colombia 3-2

Mike Trout provided some offense for Team USA against Team Colombia at Chase Field on Wed Mar 15, 2023 (AP News photo)

USA 3. 7. 0

Colombia. 2. 6.0

Time: 3:02

Attendance: 29,856

Wed March 15, 2023

By Lewis Rubman

PHOENIX-Mexico’s resounding defeat of Canada this afternoon means that the United States went into this evening’s contest against Colombia knowing that, having lost to Mexico the only time the two teams faced each other in this series.

The the most that Team USA could achieve would be to enter the quarter-finals of this year’s World Baseball Classic as the second seed from Pool C. A loss to Colombia would eliminate the sons of Uncle Sam. As things turned out, the USA won a thriller, 3-2.

Because of the tournament rules covering pitcher usage, the Colombians had to play without the services of Adrián Almeida, Nabil Crismatt, and William Cuevas, while Lance Lynn, Nick Martínez, and Brady Singer were unavailable to the team from the States.

The USA had entered this round as number one seed and so had to play only one game as the visitors. This was it.

Colombia’s manager, Gilbert Cabrera, chose to go with lefty Luis DeAvila as his starting pitcher. That’s not a household name; its bearer went 6-8, 3.49, for Rome in the class high A South Atlantic League last year.

Mark De Rosa picked right handed Merrill Kelly, 13-8, 3.37 over 200-1/3 for the Diamondbacks, to open for Team USA, who will be, for the only time in this five day round, the road team.

DeAvila escaped trouble in he first inning when, on the heels of Mike Trout’s triple and a walk to Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado lashed a wicked double down the third base line that a beautiful play by Gio Ursula converted into an around the horn, inning killing double play.

Ursula, batting third in the home plate then made the last out second baseman Tim Anderson robbed him of a hit with an equally. Beautiful backhand pickup of a grounder to the right of the base, pivot, and mid air bullet throw to first.

De Avila retired the first two batters he faced in the second, the last one beingKyle Schwarber, who sent a fly to the warning track in left. Then the young Colombian starter was yanked in favor a right handed pitcher, Santiago Flores, also a class high A hurler. He struck Tim Anderson out swinging.

Colombia mounted a credible threat in their hat of that frame, loading the bases on walks to Jorge Alfaro and Jesús Marriage, sandwiched around a Texas League single to Melbrys Vitoria, but Kelly wiggled out of the jam.

The US broke the ice with two down in the top of the third. Mookie Betts rifled a safety to right and moved into a scoring position on a wild pitch while Mike Trout was at the plate. Trout then singled him home, and Team USA had a 1-0 lead.

After Paul Goldschmidt walk, the call went out to the bullpen for Jhon Romero of the Minnesota Twins. Nolan Arenado greeted him with a blast into the second deck in left field, but that line drive flew in a straight line to left of the foul pole.

Two pitches later, Arenado straightened out his trajectory, and ball landed in the glove of Jesús Marriaga in the warning track, the second warning track, to go with two spectacular grabs he’d made closer to the infield earlier in the game.

The Colombians knotted things up in their half of the frame. Oscar Mercado doubled to center with one away and advanced to third on Harold Ramirez’s ground out to second. He scored, in spite of Trout’s fine throw home, on Urshula’s sacrifice, then Alfaro hit a single to short, and Rodríguez knocked a 92 mph four seamer 425 deep into center field that brought Colombia’s catcher home. Melbsrys Viloria’s hard line drive to Trout ended the threat, but Colombia now lead, 3-1. To make matters worse for the red, white, and blue, Romero struck out the side in the visitors’ fourth.

It was Kendall Graveman, a nor Kelly, who pitched the bottom of that inning for the USA. Kelly had gone three innings and allowed two run, booth earned, on four hits,and two walks. He threw 61 pitches, 36 for strikes.

Colombia switched pitchers again for the top of the fifth. Rubén Galindo began his mound work by walking Will Smiithand striking out Trea Turner. Then Betts singled to left, sending Smith to third and taking second himself on the throw. After Turner fanned, exit Gallino, enter Jasier Herrera.

Daniel Bard assumed mound duties for the USA to start the hone fifth, a scoreless frame, notable for a successful challenge of the safe call on Mercado’s attempted steal of second. The call was reversed, and, if that had not happened, the USA might not have been leading 3-2 at the end of the episode.

Yapsón Gómez relieved Herrera with one on and one down ib the top of the sixth. (Are you following all these changes? Because I sure as hell can’t). And David Bender toed the rubber for Team USA in second half of the frame and set ‘em down, 1, 2,3. Jason Adam did the same in the seventh on three straight Ks.

Next to climb the mound was Guillermo Zúñiga for Colombia in the top of the eighth. After he put the Yanks down to a conga beat, Devin Williams tried his hand for them in the home half of the inning. He played it well; three up, three down.

It fell to Julio Vivas to try to keep Colombia in striking distance of a comeback in the top half of the ninth. He his job, and it now it was up to Ryan Pressly to preserve the USA’s precarious lead.

He got Alfaro to ground out to Nolan at third. Rodríguez lined out to Betts in right. Elías Díaz pinch hit form Viloria and managed to hit a single to short. Jordán Díaz pinch hit for Gustavo Camera. He swung and missed at an 0-2 curve ball. The ball bounced off towards third. Díaz ran to first but catcher Will Smith’s throw beat him, and the USA beat Colombia.

Kendall Graveman was the winning pitcher. Ryan Pressly got the save. Rubén Galindo was charged with the loss.

The team will go to Miami.

And tomorrow, I’ll head home. But first, I’ll stop in Surprise to take in a game. Between the A’s and the Royals at 1:00 in the afternoon. I’ll send you my impressions of that.