Saturday, March 18, 2017

Do-or-Die for Team USA in World Baseball Classic

To borrow a phrase from Yogi Berra, for Team USA it’s a case of “deja vu all over again” in the 2017 WBC.
The disappointing performance of American teams over the history of the World Baseball Classic is well established. Team USA did not take home a medal from any of the previous incarnations of what has become baseball’s top international competition.
After a tough 5-4 loss to Puerto Rico on Friday night, the American team is once again facing disappointment. They now take on the defending champions from the Dominican Republic on Saturday night in San Diego in a win-or-go-home game.
US skipper Jim Leyland will send Danny Duffy to the mound in this pivotal matchup. The talented lefty from the Kansas City Royals was dominating in his previous start. Duffy struck out seven, walked none, and allowed just two hits in four shutout frames against Team Canada in the opening round last Sunday.
Duffy was a teammate of the late Yordano Ventura with the Royals. The young pitcher was killed in a tragic auto accident this off-season, and he and Duffy were close. Ventura was Dominican, and his jersey will hang in the DR dugout during tonight’s game.

Duffy was quoted by Bob Nightengale for USA Today in relation to Ventura:
“It’s going to be tough…I’m doing everything I can to honor him and just play like him. So, seeing that jersey is obviously going to be difficult…I loved that kid. He was my little brother. We came up together, and obviously he had that kind of fire that you can’t teach.”

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC PROVIDES SERIOUS CHALLENGE

Getting the start on the mound for the Dominican Republic will be Ervin Santana of the Minnesota Twins. This will be Santana’s first appearance in this World Baseball Classic.
The Dominicans feature a veritable all-star lineup. The club features the big bats of Manny MachadoAdrian BeltreNelson CruzJose BautistaCarlos SantanaRobinson Cano, and Gregory Polanco. There is speed on the bases with Jose ReyesStarling Marte, and Jean Segura.
The American attack has been led to this point by Christian YelichEric HosmerAndruw Jones, and middle infielders Ian Kinsler and Brandon Crawford.
This WBC was expected to be a sort-of coming-out party for mega-talented third baseman Nolan Arenado. But the Colorado Rockies star has just one hit, a home run, in his 15 at-bats to this point.
For the US to win, Arenado has to step up. So does someone from among the combination of Giancarlo StantonAndrew McCutchen, and Buster Posey. Those three stars are a combined 4-23 with four RBI and two runs scored in the WBC.
For the United States to avoid another disappointing finish, they are going to need a big performance tonight from Duffy. They are also going to need their offensive stars to wake up and produce.
The winner of tonight’s game will advance into the 2017 World Baseball Classic semi-finals. There they will join the teams from Puerto Rico, Japan, and the Netherlands.
Win tonight, and the United States will meet Japan on Tuesday for a chance at playing for the WBC championship on Wednesday. Lose, and Team USA will go home, once again disappointing the nation that gave birth to the game of baseball.

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