USA, Puerto Rico meet with top spot at stake

Pool F lead on the line when Stroman, Lugo square off

USA, Puerto Rico meet with top spot at stake

Two World Baseball Classic heavyweights will square off tonight at Petco Park in San Diego, as the United States and Puerto Rico meet at 10 ET (live on MLB Network and MLB.TV).

Both teams are coming off thrilling victories in Pool F. The U.S. came from behind to defeat Venezuela, 4-2, on Wednesday night behind home runs from Adam Jones and Eric Hosmer in the eighth inning. Puerto Rico became the first team to defeat the Dominican Republic since the 2009 Classic with a 3-1 victory on Tuesday night.

The U.S. and Puerto Rico will be playing for position atop of the Pool F standings, with the losing team tied for second place with the Dominican Republic at 1-1. The D.R. defeated Venezuela on Thursday night, 3-0. Venezuela, at 0-2, needs a U.S. victory tonight to keep alive the possibility of the other three teams tying at 1-2.

Team USA will send Blue Jays right-hander Marcus Stroman to the mound. He tossed 4 2/3 scoreless innings against the Dominican Republic in the first round, giving up only three hits and striking out four.

Puerto Rico will counter with Mets right-hander Seth Lugo. He pitched 5 1/3 scoreless frames against Venezuela in the first round, giving up just one hit and striking out three.

"They're All-Stars from one through nine," Stroman said of Puerto Rico's lineup. "You definitely have to be on top of your game to get these guys out. So I think it's definitely a great experience, and definitely prepared me more heading into the season."

With the likes of Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor and Javier Baez behind him in the field, Lugo is focused on pitching with his defense in mind.

"I don't have to worry about making the best pitch or trying to strike people out," Lugo said. "If I can just throw quality pitches in the zone, these guys are going to make great plays behind me like they've been making all tournament. I'm just going to try to stay with the same approach, and attack the zone, attack the hitters, and let these guys do what they do best."

Lugo's scoreless start

The World Baseball Classic runs through Wednesday. In the U.S., games air live exclusively in English on MLB Network and on an authenticated basis via MLBNetwork.com/watch, while ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN provide the exclusive Spanish-language coverage. MLB.TV Premium subscribers in the U.S. have access to watch every tournament game live on any of the streaming service's 400-plus supported devices. The tournament is being distributed internationally across all forms of television, internet, mobile and radio in territories excluding the U.S., Puerto Rico and Japan. Get tickets for games in San Diego's Petco Park and the Championship Round at Dodger Stadium, while complete coverage -- including schedules, video, stats and gear -- is available at WorldBaseballClassic.com.

Three things to know about this game

• At 4-0, Puerto Rico is one of two undefeated teams in WBC 2017, along with Japan (6-0). Japan already punched its ticket to the Championship Round at Dodger Stadium after defeating Israel on Wednesday in Tokyo. The Netherlands also advanced out of Pool E.

• Starting pitchers for the U.S. haven't allowed a earned run in WBC 2017, taking a 17 1/3-inning streak into tonight's contest.

USA takes on Puerto Rico

• The U.S. and Puerto Rico have met four times in Classic history. The first two meetings were in the second round of the 2009 Classic. Puerto Rico won the first game, 11-1, but the U.S. eliminated Puerto Rico with a 6-5 victory in the second meeting to advance to the semifinals.

In the 2013 Classic, the two teams again met twice in the second round. The U.S. won the first game, 7-1, but Puerto Rico advanced to the semifinals with a 4-3 win over the U.S. three days later. Puerto Rico reached the championship game against the Dominican Republic but lost, 3-0.

Manny Randhawa is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MannyOnMLB This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.