Offense had been hard to come by for Team USA to begin the 2017 World Baseball Classic, but a bit of luck helped the Americans grab an early 2-0 lead Saturday night in their much-anticipated Pool C matchup against Team Dominican Republic at Marlins Park, a game won by the
Offense had been hard to come by for Team USA to begin the 2017 World Baseball Classic, but a bit of luck helped the Americans grab an early 2-0 lead Saturday night in their much-anticipated Pool C matchup against Team Dominican Republic at Marlins Park, a game won by the Dominicans, 7-5, in dramatic fashion.
Team USA had stranded a pair of baserunners through the first two innings against Dominican Republic starter Edinson Volquez and had two outs on the scoreboard when Ian Kinsler stepped to the plate in the top of the third. Kinsler hit a ground ball that forced Dominican second baseman Robinson Cano to range far to his left, but Cano, as he has done many times in his career, made it to the ball and fired an accurate throw to first baseman Carlos Santana. Santana dropped the bounced throw, however, giving Kinsler an infield hit.
That was only the beginning of the Domincans' misplays in the third. Team USA's next batter, Adam Jones, lofted a deep fly ball to the right-center field gap between Domincan center fielder Starling Marte and right fielder Nelson Cruz.
• Tiebreaker scenarios for Pool C
:: 2017 World Baseball Classic ::
According to new metrics from Statcast™, Jones' fly ball had a hit probability of just 10 percent, as Marte and Cruz had catch probabilities of 84 and 89 percent, respectively, to make the play. The two fielders did not communicate and converged as the ball came to the ground, however, forcing it to fall in and then out of Cruz's glove for an error and allowing Kinsler to score to give Team USA a 1-0 lead. While it's customary for a center fielder to call off corner outfielders, the numbers tell us that this was actually an easier play for Cruz, and it should have been his ball.
The Americans discovered more luck in their very next at-bat when Volquez jammed Christian Yelich and forced a soft pop up to shallow left field. Hit softly, Yelich's popup found the perfect spot between left fielder Jose Bautista and third baseman Manny Machado to drop in for another RBI hit as Jones raced home from third base.
Team USA would get a more conventional run the next inning, when Brandon Crawford knocked a no-doubt RBI single up the middle to knock out Volquez and give the Americans a 3-0 lead.
The World Baseball Classic runs through March 22. In the U.S., games air live exclusively in English on MLB Network and on an authenticated basis via MLBNetwork.com/watch, while ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN provide the exclusive Spanish-language coverage. MLB.TV Premium subscribers in the U.S. have access to watch every tournament game live on any of the streaming service's 400-plus supported devices. The tournament is being distributed internationally across all forms of television, internet, mobile and radio in territories excluding the U.S., Puerto Rico and Japan. Get tickets for games at Marlins Park, Tokyo Dome, Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, Estadio Charros de Jalisco in Mexico, Petco Park, as well as the Championship Round at Dodger Stadium, while complete coverage -- including schedules, video, stats and gear -- is available at WorldBaseballClassic.com.
Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.