MIAMI -- And now, after Jose Quintana and his Colombian countrymen had us discussing the biggest upsets in World Baseball Classic history, your main event.Team USA faces the Dominican Republic powerhouse amid the cacophony of a sellout crowd fit for the World Cup (Saturday at 6:30 p.m. ET on MLB.TV
MIAMI -- And now, after Jose Quintana and his Colombian countrymen had us discussing the biggest upsets in World Baseball Classic history, your main event.
Team USA faces the Dominican Republic powerhouse amid the cacophony of a sellout crowd fit for the World Cup (Saturday at 6:30 p.m. ET on MLB.TV and MLB Network). They won't fret that they were almost 0-1. Not when they can embrace the chance to demonstrate their own excellence against Manny Machado, Robinson Cano, Adrian Beltre and other friends and teammates from across the Major Leagues.
:: 2017 World Baseball Classic ::
"Obviously it's the game that everybody circled on their calendar," said Orioles center fielder Adam Jones, whose 10th-inning single gave the U.S. a 3-2 victory. "It's going to be a sold-out crowd and I'm expecting noise throughout all nine innings. ... Both teams are stacked top to bottom, defensively, offensively, pitching staff."
Team USA manager Jim Leyland felt his hitters were tight against the Colombians but credited them for being well-prepared and playing a great game. He was thrilled to get the victory and must know it'll take better hitting to hang with the defending champs.
"We know that the lineup, obviously, that the Dominican has, it's unbelievable," Leyland said. "But hey, this is the big-boys game. This is what it's all about. They have a fantastic lineup, we think we have a great lineup, and we'll just see how it plays out."
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, 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.
For players who don't find the concept of national pride old-fashioned, the Classic becomes a bigger deal every time it's held. These have become exhibition games in name only.
This 10-inning win by the U.S. over Colombia banged home the point that these guys don't take lightly the chance to represent their country.
After Jones deposited a pitch from Guillermo Moscoso into left field to score Christian Yelich with the winning run, the joy in the ensuing dogpile was every bit as genuine as anything that happens in October. And the heartbreak felt by Moscoso, Quintana and the other Colombians might have been even worse.
"We almost were able to touch the sky," Quintana said.
The signature moment of the game came four innings earlier, however.
Nolan Arenado, one of the Major Leagues' most consistently productive stars, launched himself head-first at first base to reach on a strikeout-wild pitch in the sixth inning. His effort allowed the tying run to score as the U.S. recovered from the 2-0 hole it fell into during Quintana's 5 2/3-inning pitching clinic.
Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich and Colorado fans must have hated seeing Arenado risk injury by diving into a collision with first baseman Reynaldo Rodriguez (who turned out to be the one shaken up on the play). But when you play, you're supposed to play with abandon, and there was no questioning anyone's effort in Friday night's Pool C opener for the teams.
"I think what it says across our chest is what we're about," Jones said. "Individually, obviously we do our own special things, but right now we're taking a back seat to our own egos and doing what we have to do for Team USA. Right now this is who we play for, so we're trying to do anything and anything possible just to win the game. It showed throughout the game. We are willing to sacrifice our own personal betterment for the greater good."
Quintana, the White Sox left-hander who remains the subject of ongoing trade interest, worked 5 2/3 hitless innings before a single by Brandon Crawford. It was one of the greatest pitching performances in the Classic, and Quintana was left with a no-decision that follows the trend over his five seasons with the Sox (46-46, with 59 no-decisions in 151 starts).
"I have no words to describe this moment, but I was very upset by the result," Quintana said. "We had a lot of chances to be victorious. But as I said at the beginning, we did not come here to enjoy ourselves."
Quintana was backed by a series of defensive highlights from his teammates, none of whom are expected to join him in the Major Leagues on Opening Day.
Center fielder Tito Polo, a lower-Minors player in the Yankees organization, made a whirling catch to rob Jones on the warning track in the first inning. He and left fielder Mauricio Ramos, a third baseman playing an unfamiliar position, caught just about everything that came their way.
"Let's get one thing straight," Leyland said. "Let's give this Colombia team some credit. They really got out of a few jams and they battled their tails off. This game very easily could have gone either way."
Colombia manager Luis Urueta played his outfielders unusually deep and used some unusual defensive positioning against the U.S. hitters. At some points he had his two middle infielders, the Yankees' Donovan Solano and longtime Nationals Minor Leaguer Adrian Sanchez, switch spots on a batter-by-batter basis.
With the help of D-backs player development assistant TJ Lasita, Urueta and others worked tirelessly to develop game plans to face Team USA, the Dominican Republic and Canada. The work started shortly after Colombia beat Panama in the final of the 2016 qualifier.
"As soon as we qualified last year, and as soon as we know that we were playing the U.S., we had plenty of information," Urueta said. "You know how the game goes now. You got information on everybody. Then we just study and evaluated our players and how we could use our players according to the defensive skills that they have, how we could play them. ... I think it worked today."
Leyland had to use his bullpen for six innings because he pulled starter Chris Archer after 41 pitches in four scoreless innings. He would have liked to use him longer but the Rays had set four innings as his maximum.
Leyland hopes to have an easier time Saturday. He's planning to use two starters, with Marcus Stroman opening the game and Tanner Roark following him. Those two could take care of the first 130 pitches as they match up with Edinson Volquez and the Dominicans' deep bullpen.
This is going to be fun.
Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com and has covered Major League Baseball since 1984.