SAN DIEGO -- The United States is headed to the World Baseball Classic semifinals. Giancarlo Stanton belted a go-ahead homer and Adam Jones made a catch for the ages, propelling the U.S. to its second semifinals appearance with a 6-3 win over the Dominican Republic on Saturday night in San Diego.
The winner-take-all bout had a postseason-like atmosphere, with the sellout Petco Park crowd hanging on every pitch between two of the most star-studded rosters in the tournament. By defeating the defending champions, Team USA advances to join Puerto Rico, Japan and the Netherlands in Los Angeles. A semifinals matchup with unbeaten Japan looms Tuesday evening at 9 p.m. ET on MLB Network and MLB.TV.
"I think Adam's play really charged us up, Giancarlo's homer really charged us up," Team USA manager Jim Leyland said. "We beat a really good team. Our hats go off to them. They competed, they were a great team, and tonight we were the better team."
The Dominican Republic, which won the 2013 Classic with a perfect 8-0 record, fell short of the semifinals for the first time since the inaugural Classic in 2006. The Caribbean nation is now 18-6 all-time in the tournament (4-2 this year).
"We did everything that we [could] to try to win the game, but they played better than us," said Dominican starter Ervin Santana. "We got a lot of opportunities to score runs and we didn't get the job done, and they took every opportunity that they had to score runs and they did it."
Saturday's victory marked Team USA's first win against the Dominican Republic in three tries. The Dominican team bested the U.S. in the 2013 Classic and just last week, with its stunning, five-run comeback in Miami.
"It was good for us as a team to be able to get the chance to play the Dominican again in a must-win, and to be able to come [out] on top, to be able to finish, and to do it with just having our chest out a little bit," said Andrew McCutchen, who contributed a two-run double in the eighth. "It feels good to be a part of that. It feels good to be a part of this team, and I look forward to us going and trying to get another 'W.'"
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Stanton wows the crowd: Stanton brought the Team USA faithful to their feet in the fourth inning when he crushed a two-run, go-ahead homer into the Western Metal Supply Co. building at Petco Park. The projected 424-foot blast had a 117.3 mph exit velocity, which rates as the fourth-hardest home run of the Statcast™ era (dating back to the beginning of 2015). The Marlins slugger owns the first (119.2 mph), second (118.5) and fourth fastest exit velocities on that list.
"That's the hardest ball I've ever seen hit from on deck," U.S. catcher Jonathan Lucroy said. "I think that was kind of a knockout punch for them. But they hung in there, had some good at-bats after that, but after that homer and the double from McCutchen, it was over."
Stanton's homer knocked Santana out of the game after 3 2/3 innings. The Twins right-hander yielded four runs on six hits and struck out two batters. More >>
Jones robs O's teammate: As is routine for Team USA, Jones came through in the late innings with a clutch play, this time with his glove. The center fielder robbed his Orioles teammate Manny Machado of a home run in the seventh with a leaping grab against the wall. Jones' catch helped the U.S. preserve its lead moments later when Robinson Cano launched a solo homer to left.
"I'm still kind of [shocked] that I even got to that ball," Jones said. "I mean, off the bat, I'm just like this ball's hit really far, so just keep going, keep going. You know this California air's going to slow it down, and just never quit. That's just the style I play with. I don't mind running into a wall or two." More >>
Fielding gaffes cost U.S.: Team USA was hurt by defensive miscues in the first inning, beginning with a throwing error by Brandon Crawford. The Giants shortstop bobbled a ground ball from Machado and then fired an off-the-mark throw to first that allowed Machado to reach safely. Machado came around to score the next at-bat on Cano's RBI double to center, which had a 38 percent catch rate, according to Statcast™. It would have been a four-star catch for U.S. center fielder Christian Yelich, who converted on 10 of 22 such opportunities in 2016.
Team USA then missed another opportunity for an out when Nelson Cruz struck out swinging but reached on Danny Duffy's wild pitch. The Dominican Republic scored one more run in the inning on Carlos Santana's knock, jumping out to a quick 2-0 lead.
Cutch pads the lead: McCutchen's only hit of the game was a huge one, coming in the eighth inning, as the U.S. clung to a 4-3 lead. With Yelich on second and Eric Hosmer on first, McCutchen roped an Alex Colome pitch into the left-center-field gap for a two-run double.
While Yelich could cruise home on the play, Hosmer had to hustle and showed off his speed in scoring without a throw, his helmet flying off in the process. Hosmer's first-to-home time of 10.9 seconds was faster than any time Statcast™ recorded for him in 2016 when he wasn't running on the pitch. While Hosmer isn't known for being fleet of foot, he actually compares favorably to his peers at first base. Among players at that position, only Wil Myers beat Hosmer's average of 4.29 seconds on "competitive" runs from home to first -- meaning those faster than his 90th percentile time.
"We've got six months to be next to each other and close to each other, so I'm pretty sure I'm going to give him some ribbing about it. And he robbed me earlier in the first inning, too. So it was just a little payback, just on a different situation." -- Jones on robbing Machado
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS Gregory Polanco was among the bright spots for a Dominican offense that struggled to generate runs Saturday. The Pirates outfielder collected three hits, giving him multiple knocks in each of his five World Baseball Classic starts. He finished the Classic 11-for-19 with a double, a home run, two RBIs and three runs scored.
TEAM USA NAVIGATES DANGEROUS DOMINICAN LINEUP
Duffy and the U.S. bullpen worked their way out of numerous jams throughout the night, reigning in the Dominican Republic bats. Duffy ran into trouble early in the game with runners on the corners and no outs in the second. The Royals southpaw retired his next three batters in order with just seven pitches to erase the threat. Relievers Pat Neshek and Tyler Clippard followed suit in the later innings, working their way out of serious jams to strand Dominican runners on the basepaths.
The U.S. pitching staff limited its opponent to 1-for-11 batting with runners in scoring position Saturday. The issue plagued the Dominican squad throughout its three second-round games as it hit .087 (2-for-23) in San Diego.
"This was a very difficult game," Dominican manager Tony Pena said. "You have 11 players on base, and we could only do the best we could. They tried. I feel very proud of each of them. I will not point to any one of them. It's simply that the U.S. Team did the right pitches in that particular timeframe, and that's what cost us the game." More >>
The World Baseball Classic now moves to Los Angeles, where the final three contests will be played at Dodger Stadium. The semifinals begin Monday with Pool F winner Puerto Rico taking on the Netherlands, the runner-up from Tokyo, at 9 p.m. ET on Monday. Team USA and Japan will follow on Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET, and the winner of each contest will meet in Wednesday night's championship game.
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 the Championship Round at Dodger Stadium, while complete coverage -- including schedules, video, stats and gear -- is available at WorldBaseballClassic.com.
Chad Thornburg is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.