Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich are making their country and the Marlins proud at the World Baseball Classic.
The cornerstones of the Marlins’ lineup helped kick-start a rally by Team USA late Saturday night that ended with a 6-3 victory over the Dominican Republic at Petco Park in San Diego.
The victory secured Team USA a spot in the semifinals for the second time in the history of the WBC and the first time since 2009. The United States will play Japan at 9 p.m. Tuesday night in a semifinal at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.
Stanton was not having a strong WBC coming into the game.
But he changed that and Team USA’s fortunes quickly with one big swing that resembled his powerful hacks last July in a record-setting Home Run Derby at Petco Park.
An inning after he scored the United States’ first run of the game, Stanton belted a mammoth two-run home run that put Team USA ahead for good. The blast traveled 424 feet, according to Statcast, and had a 117-mph exit velocity, which rated the fourth-hardest ball ever hit since the tracking system was implemented in 2015. Stanton also has the two fastest-hit balls it has tracked.
Marlins manager Don Mattingly talked Sunday in Jupiter about getting more consistency out of one of baseball’s most powerful hitters this season.
“Obviously, you know he can hit the ball a long way, but you would like him to be consistent and give us good at-bats, not go on a month-long stretch where it’s a struggle,” Mattingly said. “He’s capable of that, so it’s just a matter of being consistent and helping us on a daily basis.”
Before Stanton’s left-field blast off Ervin Santana, Yelich’s double evened things up at 2-2 in the third inning, as he continues to play well in the tournament.
Yelich, who also walked twice Saturday night, has gone 7 for 20 with four doubles in six games.
“It’s good to see your guys having success,” Mattingly said. “Obviously, Stanton hadn’t been getting many at-bats. Yelich just keeps doing his thing, so it’s good to see.”
Stanton had not started in the previous two WBC games, striking out in his lone pinch-hitting appearance. Stanton went just 1 for 9 in three first-round games at Marlins Park the previous week.
Stanton smacked 61 home runs to win last year’s Home Run Derby, including two that traveled 497 feet and five that surpassed 490 feet.
“The feeling of confidence should never be a question,” Stanton told reporters in San Diego after the game. “It’s just getting your timing and feel. So that was the toughest part without playing a couple days and understanding we’ve got to put the best guys out there who are feeling the best, too. So you’ve got to lock it in ASAP and just get ready to go.”