The United States is eager to end its struggles in the World Baseball Classic.
On Friday night, Team USA had to work a little extra to figure out how to beat Colombia.
Adam Jones, who broke a scoreless drought earlier in the game for the U.S., delivered a walk-off single that scored Christian Yelich and delivered the Americans a 3-2 win in 10 innings in their WBC opener that was watched by a crowd of 22,580 at Marlins Park.
“I've had a lot of good moments with the Orioles but this one ranks pretty high,” Jones said. “I think the name across our chests is what it all means for us right now.”
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Yelich, the Marlins’ center fielder who is playing in his first WBC and in his home ballpark, drew a walk as did Brandon Crawford with one out in the 10th. Ian Kinsler moved the runners over to second and third on a check-swing grounder to second.
Jones then smacked a changeup from reliever Guillermo Moscoso into left field allowing Yelich to trot home and score the winning run.
“That atmosphere tonight was unbelievable,” Yelich said. “I've never played in a postseason game. I had the adrenaline going. That's a game that you remember for a long time and it's a great way to kick things off.”
Yelich, who was quoted before the WBC as saying he would play in the event for free even if the players wouldn’t get paid, had a pinch-hit double in the eighth inning as well.
Two batters later, Yelich advanced to third on a bloop single by Kinsler, but was stranded there after Adam Jones struck out and Tito Polo made another nice diving catch to take a hit away from Arenado.
The U.S., who will face the Dominican Republic on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. in a game expected to draw a capacity crowd to Marlins Park, prevailed despite spending the first 5 2/3 innings of the game failing to record a hit against Colombia starter Jose Quintana.
USA benefited from the World Baseball Classic’s pitch limit rule, which allows pitchers in the first round to throw a maximum of 65 pitches.
It forced Quintana out of the game after 63 pitches following Brandon Crawford’s single in the sixth, which broke up his no-hitter.
Having thrown 62 pitches heading into Crawford’s at-bat, it forced Colombia to remove Quintana from the game. Right-hander William Cuevas came in and gave up a single to Ian Kinsler. Adam Jones followed that with a double down the left field line that scored Crawford and put runners on second and third. On the play, Kinsler overran the bag and was nearly tagged out.
Cuevas struck out Nolan Arenado, but again USA caught a break. Arenado swung and missed at a slider, but the ball got away from Jhonatan Solano. That allowed Kinsler to tie the game at 2 after Arenado dove in safely at first base ahead of Solano’s throw.
The U.S. failed to take the lead, however, as pinch hitter Eric Hosmer grounded out to Cuevas and stranded Jones at third.
“I thought our guys were amped up pretty good,” USA manager Jim Leyland said. “I just got a sense we were trying to do too much. It's ok to manufacture runs. When you see a lot of outs in the air that could be the case. We hung in there until we got the big hit.”
Former Marlins infielder Donovan Solano had a chance to give Colombia the lead in the eighth after back-to-back walks put runners on first and second with one out. But Solano lined out to Arenado, who then doubled up Mauricio Ramos at first for an inning-ending double play.
Chris Archer started the game for the U.S. and threw four perfect innings and struck out three on 41 pitches.
Colombia broke the stalemate with three consecutive doubles with two outs in the top of the fifth off reliever Mychal Givens, who replaced Archer and struck out Jorge Alfaro and Jhonatan Solano to start the inning.
But then Jesus Valdez ripped a ball into the gap in left center that got past Jones and left fielder Andrew McCutchen.
Adrian Sanchez belted a double over Jones and off the center field wall to drive in Valdez. Mauricio Ramos followed that with a double toward the left field line that was out of McCutchen’s reach and also got to the wall to give Colombia a 2-0 lead.
“Archer had a situation with his organization where if he got through four innings that was going to be it,” Leyland said. "Once he told us that, that's what we were going to do.”
The United States announced Friday that Marcus Stroman would start Saturday’s game and Leyland said he would piggyback his start with Tanner Roark. The U.S. used six pitchers out of the bullpen in Friday’s win.