USA moves on to WBC semifinal against Japan

Adam Jones‘ seventh-inning home run-robbing snag will make its way into the hearts of a nation and onto highlight reels for ages.

Ranging deep into right-center, the Baltimore Orioles All-Star outfielder soared through the heavy San Diego night-time air, wrangling a Manny Machado ball that had been ticketed for the second row of bleachers.

Instead of nestling into the unwelcoming lap of a fan in the second row of bleachers, and cutting USA’s lead over the Dominican Republic (4-2) to a single tally in Saturday’s World Baseball Classic action, an impressive drive resulted in the most impressive of outs.

Riding the glove work of Jones, along with another fantastic start from lefty Danny Duffy (Kansas City Royals) and a booming homer from Giancarlo Stanton (Miami Marlins), the Americans (4-2) escaped a difficult second round, advancing to the semifinals in Los Angeles.

With its loss, the 2013 champion Dominican Republic was bounced from the tournament.

The U.S. was forced to work out of trouble almost immediately, after a rare Brandon Crawford (San Francisco Giants) error allowed the second Dominican hitter of the night, Machado (Orioles), aboard for free. Following RBIs from Robinson Cano (Seattle Mariners) and Nelson Cruz (Mariners), Duffy and company were exactly where they didn’t want to be — chasing the explosive DR offense early.

They weren’t chasing for long, however, as third-inning RBIs from Ian Kinsler (Detroit Tigers) and Christian Yelich (Marlins) knotted things up.

And the game-tying rally had an even greater impact on the momentum on the game, given the Duffy’s ability to post a zero in the bottom of the second, despite the bottom of the Dominican offense’s setting up the top with runners on second and third and no outs. The lefty, who twirled four shutout innings over team Canada on March 12, coaxed pop-outs from All-Stars Jose Reyes (New York Mets) and Machado before getting Cano, the 2013 WBC MVP, to ground out.

Duffy concluded his outing with a win as his reward for 4 strong innings of work, serving up six hits and two runs (one unearned) against an offense which finished its WBC runs having scored 5.5 runs per game.

In the fourth, Stanton, who wowed on his way to winning the 2017 Home Run Derby at Saturday’s host stadium Petco Park, produced the loudest contact of the tournament thus far.

Unleashing on a first-pitch fastball from starter Ervin Santana (Minnesota Twins), the hulking southern California native pulverized a two-run blast off the third floor of the Western Metal Supply Co. Building.

The liner, which came off the bat at nearly 118 miles per hour — the fourth-highest exit velocity ever recorded — according to Statcast, never rose higher than its impact point, and may have still been on an upward angle.

USA’s lead stalled at 4-2 until the seventh, when the DR crept a skosh closer following Jones’ Superman-esque heroics. Compounding the importance of the San Diego native’s soaring snatch, and proving its difficulty, Yelich was unable to provide an encore on a similar play just five pitches later, playing witness to a solo homer from Cano.

Once again, though, the American bats were able to add a bit of breathing room for the bullpen, which was jumped for seven runs one week prior in Round 1 defeat.

A two-run double from Andrew McCutchen (Pittsburgh Pirates) ended the scoring. The three-run advantage was enough for Luke Gregerson (Houston Astros) to coast, sealing his second save of the tournament.

Next up for the red, white and blue is a showdown with the two-time champion Japan (6-0), the nation responsible for America’s elimination in its only previous trip to the semifinals in 2009. The two will face off in the second of two single-loss elimination matches, the first of which will feature the Netherlands (4-2) and Puerto Rico (6-0), on Tuesday at Dodger Stadium.


Kalama Hines is SFBay’s Oakland Athletics beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @HineSight_2020 on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of A’s baseball.