Team USA advance to quarterfinals with victory over Colombia

United States' Mike Trout celebrates after hitting a two-run single against Colombia during the fifth inning of a World Baseball Classic game in Phoenix, March 15, 2023. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)
Mike Trout dragged Team USA to the quarterfinals of the World Baseball Classic. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)

Team USA advanced to the quarterfinals of the World Baseball Classic with a 3-2 victory over Colombia on Wednesday, making up for a major stumble against Mexico with back-to-back victories.

The Americans finish second in Pool C 3-1, tied with Mexico but lose the head-to-head tiebreak. They will meet Venezuela in the quarterfinals on Saturday in Miami (FS1).

American captain Mike Trout came through with all three of his team’s RBIs and went 3-for-4 with a triple that night. The go-ahead hit came in the fifth inning, as Los Angeles Angels star Will Smith and Mookie Betts knocked in to give USA a 3-2 lead.

The American bullpen held it off from there, with Kendall Graveman, Daniel Bard, David Bednar, Jason Adam, Devin Williams and Ryan Pressly all pitching scoreless innings after starter Merrill Kelly gave up two runs in the third.

Advancing to the quarterfinals may have seemed inevitable given the strength of the US lineup, but the defending champions found themselves in a weak position after a rough 11-5 loss to Mexico in their second game. The US had to beat both Canada and Colombia, with a bizarre tiebreaker ahead if they lost on Wednesday.

Team USA reaches the World Baseball Classic round

The USA was the last team to make it to the first part of the WBC, followed closely by Puerto Rico after an upset victory over the Dominican Republic in a de facto elimination match earlier Wednesday.

Group A winner Cuba is already through to the semi-finals with a victory over Group B runner-up Australia. Pool B winner Japan will face Pool A runner-up Italy, and Mexico will play Pool D runner-up Puerto Rico. As things stand, the US would take on Cuba if it gets past Venezuela.

Venezuela, led by MLB stars Jose Altuve and Ronald Acuña Jr., looks to be a tougher challenge than anything the US saw in pool play, and the safety net that saved the Americans after losing in Mexico is now gone.

Wednesday’s win vs. Colombia means the US continues to move up pool play, which it has done in every World Baseball Classic since the 2006 inaugural tournament. But all those MLB All-Stars probably agreed to play with a back-to-back championship in mind, and now things get tougher.

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