The United States is on to the finals of the 2017 World Baseball Classic after a big win in the semifinals against Japan on Tuesday. They will face Puerto Rico to determine this year’s champion. It’s the first time the United States has ever made it to the finals in the World Baseball Classic.
It was a close game, ending with a narrow 2-1 margin for the United States.
Both pitchers were solid and pitched a shutout until the top of the fourth inning, when Christian Yelich made it to second base on an error by Ryosuke Kikuchi. Eric Hosmer walked and Andrew McCutchen hit a single to shallow left field, scoring Yelich for the first runs of the game.
Japan didn’t get on the board until the bottom of the sixth, when Kikuchi struck a 376-foot home run at the expense of Nate Jones, who came in to relieve Tanner Roark in the bottom of the fifth inning. That tied the game, and the United States escaped the inning without further damage.
In the top of the eighth, the United States took the lead back when Brandon Crawford hit a single and Ian Kinsler hit a double to centerfield. That sent Crawford to third. Adam Jones grounded out to third, scoring Crawford and sending Kinsler to third with two outs.
Kodai Senga managed to escape the inning when he struck out Yelich, stranding Kinsler on third base. The United States suffered a scare in the bottom of the inning when Pat Neshek came in to relieve Mark Melancon, and Yoshitomo Tsutsugoh struck one hard into right field. Fortunately, it dropped for the third out and the United States made it to the ninth inning with its one-run lead intact.
Puerto Rico is coming off a hard-fought 4-3 victory over the Netherlands in the first semifinal of the championship round. They are coming off a year in which they lost in the finals and are trying to make things right this time around. They lost in the final four years ago, to the Dominican Republic, which found itself eliminated in the second round in 2017.
Puerto Rico has been on a tear this year. They beat the Dominican Republic, 3-1, and then edged out the United States in a narrow 6-5 matchup. After that, they absolutely ran roughshod over Venezuela, winning that game, 13-2. Finally, they had their win over Netherlands in their semifinal matchup.
The final of this year’s World Baseball Classic will take place on Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET from Dodger Stadium, televised on MLB Network in the United States. Seth Lugo is set to make the start for Puerto Rico.