The US survived a scare in their World Baseball Classic opener on Friday, needing a walkoff single from Adam Jones to defeat Colombia 3-2 in 10 innings.
Jones went two-for-five at the plate and his game-winning single to left-center field came off Colombia relief pitcher Guillermo Moscoso.
“I’ve had a lot of good moments with the [Baltimore] Orioles playing against Major League Baseball teams, but this one ranks up there pretty high,” Jones said.
Colombia southpaw pitcher Jose Quintana carried a no-hitter through five innings until Brandon Crawford belted a two-out single to right field in the sixth in front of a crowd of 22,000 at Marlins Park.
Quintana, who plays for the Chicago White Sox, left the game, but not before he recorded four strikeouts and walked just one batter.
The US did not expect much of a struggle from Colombia, one of the lowest-ranked teams in the tournament.
However, for a time, it seemed like their very green group of players might engineer their own “Miracle on the Diamond” by beating the mighty US in their first-ever appearance in the 16-team international tournament.
“I tip my cap to Team Colombia. They played their tails off,” Jones said. “Quintana and their defense, they just impressed everybody.”
“Hopefully the baseball in that country continues to grow and grow and grow, because they’ve got a bright future as a country with baseball,” he said.
Colombia, with a roster made up of mostly journeymen who lack big-league experience, have just 80 players who play competitive baseball in the US. This compares with the US who have more than 600 players in Major League Baseball and 10 million young people playing the game.
However, many of the US’ biggest names, such as Clayton Kershaw, Mike Trout and Kris Bryant, skipped the tournament, much to the dismay of manager Jim Leyland. The US have never won the tournament.
The tournament’s pitch-limit rules forced Colombia to remove Quintana after 5-2/3 innings and go to their bullpen.
It did not take long for the US to level the contest at 2-2.
Colorado Rockies player Nolan Arenado beat out a throw to first base on a strikeout wild pitch.
He did it by diving into the bag allowing the game-tying run to score.
US starting pitcher Chris Archer threw four perfect innings, striking out three batters.
In the night game, T.J. Rivera belted a two-run home run in the seventh inning as Puerto Rico cruised to an 11-0 mercy-rule victory over Venezuela in just seven innings at the Estadio Charros de Jalisco in Zapopan, Mexico.
In Pool B on Friday, Cuba defeated Australia 4-3 and Japan beat China 7-1 in the final games in that group.
Japan topped the pool and moved to Pool E with Cuba, who finished second.
They are to play Israel and the Netherlands in a round-robin series at the Tokyo Dome from today to decide two semi-finalists.
Additional reporting by staff writer
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