Team USA advanced to the quarterfinals of the World Baseball Classic after a 3-2 win over Colombia on Wednesday, making up for a major setback with back-to-back wins against Mexico.
The Americans would officially finish second in Pool C at 3–1, tied with Mexico but losing the head-to-head tiebreaker. They will face Venezuela in the quarter-finals on Friday (FS1) in Miami.
American captain Mike Trout came up with all three of his team’s RBIs, going 3-for-4 with triples on the night. The go-ahead hit occurred in the fifth inning, in which the Los Angeles Angels star struck out Will Smith and Mookie Betts for a 3–2 lead.
The American bullpen pitched scoreless innings with Kendall Graveman, Daniel Bard, David Bedner, Jason Adam, Devin Williams and Ryan Pressley after starter Merrill Kelly allowed two runs in the third.
Advancing to the quarterfinals may have seemed inevitable given the strength of the US lineup, but the defending champions were in a vulnerable position after an 11–5 loss to Mexico in their second game. Losing on Wednesday left the US needing to beat both Canada and Colombia, with a bizarre tiebreaker.
Team USA advances to World Baseball Classic bracket
The US was the last team to make the bracket portion of the WBC, actually coming close to Puerto Rico after an upset win over the Dominican Republic in the elimination game.
Pool A winners Cuba have already advanced to the semi-finals with a win over Pool B runners-up Australia. Pool B winners Japan will face Pool A runners-up Italy, while Mexico will face Pool D winners Venezuela. As it stands, if the US leaves Venezuela behind, it will have to face Cuba.
Venezuela, led by MLB stars Jose Altuve and Ronald Acuna Jr., is a tougher challenge than anything the US has seen in pool play, and the safety net that saved the Americans after the loss to Mexico is now gone.
At least Colombia’s win means the US will continue its streak of exiting pool play, as it has done in every World Baseball Classic going back to the inaugural tournament in 2006. But all those MLB All-Stars agreed to play with back-to-back championships in mind, and now things are about to get even tougher.