Team USA Result: USA advances at World Baseball Classic as Mike Trout delivers against Colombia

PHOENIX — On Wednesday night, it was a win and a draw for Team USA against Colombia at the 2023 World Baseball Classic, and USA answered the call. Barely. The USA won 3-2, thanks in large part to Mike Trout (you may have heard of him). The Americans meet Venezuela in the quarterfinals on Saturday in Miami.

Let’s take a look at how things went at Chase Field in Arizona on Wednesday.

The Mike Trout Game

After his third at-bat, I started imagining Mike Trout doing a wrestling-style promo saying something like “just in case you forgot who the hell I am…” The best positional player in the world was the best player in this game.

Trout tripled off the midfield wall in the first inning but was stranded at third base. Next, he beat Mookie Betts home with two outs for the first run of the game. Next time it was the top of fifth with USA trailing 2-1. Runners were in second and third place. Yeah, Trout did his thing again.

It’s also worth noting that Colombia had already scored two runs by the end of the third, and Meibrys Vilora sent a rocket down center right that could have added another run. Instead, Trout let it down from the inning for the final.

Trout went 3 for 4 with a triple and all three USA RBI. If there was such a thing, he would have been the unanimous MVP of the game.

We should point out that Mookie Betts did his job, coming on base twice ahead of Trout and scoring two of the three USA runs. Give Betts credit, but this game was all about Trout carrying the US offense.

The US fell behind again

The USA finished 3-1 in pool but fell behind in three of their four games. The only exception was when the United States scored nine runs against Canada in the first inning. With a move to the Quarters and possibly beyond, USA will face much tougher competition and it would be fitting that they stop playing from behind.

The offensive was missing

There were certainly some loud outs and foul balls. Betts and Nolan Arenado both hit foul balls from homer distance down the left field line. Arenado’s inning-ending double play in the first inning was well hit. Arenado and Kyle Schwarber both flew into the warning lane. Betts and Trea Turner positioned themselves sharply in left field.

All of which is to say that offense collectively arguably swung the racquets better than three runs for seven hits sounds like.

Still, it was just three runs for seven hits against a pitching staff with little major league-caliber talent. The only extra base hit was Trout’s triple.

We’ve watched baseball long enough to know it’s not a small-sample game, and we shouldn’t make blanket judgments based on those samples. To say that the US offensive is poor or even mediocre when actually loaded would be folly. Still, this is a small-sample tournament, and to cite just one example, Japan was rarely challenged. The US aren’t playing to their full potential on offense other than that one big rally against Canada. Maybe that will change in the next round.

Rough start for Kelly but the bullpen delivered

There was no question about Team USA’s major weakness going into the World Baseball Classic. It’s the starting shot. Diamondbacks right-back Merrill Kelly is 34 and has never been an All-Star. He got the ball in a game USA desperately needed to win. In three innings of work, he coughed up two runs with four hits and two walks against just one strikeout. It wasn’t a strong performance. On the other hand, it wasn’t crushed either, and the US certainly should have provided more support.

The lineup of helpers that followed Kelly has been great for the most part. Kendall Graveman gave up a single but erased it with a pickoff to end his scoreless inning. Daniel Bard worked around a walk. David Bednar and Jason Adam were outstanding. Devin Williams and Ryan Pressly closed the door.

Next for the US: Venezuela

Venezuela went 4-0 in their pool against Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Israel and Nicaragua. The Venezuela squad includes many well-known names, such as Jose Altuve, Ronald Acuña, Miguel Cabrera, Salvador Perez, Anthony Santander, Luis Arraez, Andrés Giménez, Eugenio Suárez, Gleyber Torres and, well, you get the point. You are loaded.

Adam Wainwright, who started USA’s opener, expects to get the ball back on the mound but nothing has been made official yet.

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