LOS ANGELES — An Adam Jones ground ball drove in Brandon Crawford with the tiebreaking run in the eighth inning, and the United States advanced to its first World Baseball Classic title game with a 2-1 victory over Japan at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday.
The U.S. meets Puerto Rico in the championship game Wednesday. Puerto Rico (7-0) makes its second straight trip to the finals after losing to the Dominican Republic in 2013. The U.S. lost to Japan in the 2009 semifinals.
Crawford singled off Kodai Senga (1-1) with one out in the eighth, and Ian Kinsler followed with a double that hit midway up the left-center-field fence in a game that was played in a steady drizzle.
Jones hit a weak grounder to drawn-in third baseman Nobuhiro Matsuda, who looked to the plate but lost control of the ball for a moment and had only one play at first as Crawford — running on the play — scored. Pat Neshek stranded runners on first and second base with two outs in the eighth inning and Luke Gregerson pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his third save of the WBC. There were more umpire reviews (four) than hits (three) in the first three innings before the U.S. scored an unearned run in the fourth inning to take a 1-0 lead.
Christian Yelich reached second base when second baseman Ryosuke Kikuchi could not handle a hard ground ball with one out. Eric Hosmer walked with two out before McCutchen singled to left field to drive in Yelich. Kikuchi’s one-out homer on a 98 mph fastball from reliever Nate Jones tied the game at 1 in the last of the sixth inning.
U.S. right-hander Tanner Roark made his second appearance and first start of the WBC, giving up two hits and no runs in four innings before being replaced by Jones.
HOW THE GAME WAS WON: U.S. relievers Andrew Miller, Sam Dyson, Mark Melancon, Pat Neshek and Luke Gregerson combined to get the final 11 outs after Japan tied the game on Ryosuke Kikuchi’s homer with one out in the sixth inning. Dyson, Neshek and Gregerson have not been scored upon in four WBC outings apiece. Melancon was making his first appearance after joining the team Monday.
MISSED OPPORTUNITY: Japan had runners on first and second with two outs in the eighth inning but cleanup hitter Yoshitomo Tsutsugo lined out to right. Japan had runners in scoring position in the first and third innings but starter Tanner Roark stranded both.
TIP OF THE CAP: Japan right-hander Tomoyuki Sugano gave three hits and one (unearned) run in six innings and reliever Kodai Senga struck out five while giving up a tainted run in two innings. Sugano may not have the name of previous Japanese WBC pitching stars such as Daisuke Matsuzaka, Yu Darvish and Kenta Maeda, but he was the MVP of the Japan Central League with the Yomiuri Giants in 2014 and was 9-6 with a 2.01 ERA with the Giants in 2016.
UP NEXT: The U.S. meets Puerto Rico in the championship game Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium. Puerto Rico, the only team in the Western Hemisphere to win at least four games in each of the four WBCs, was shut out 3-0 by the Dominican Republic in final 2013 final. Puerto Rico beat the U.S. 6-5 in pool play Friday. Puerto Rico is also trying for its first WBC title
TAMPA – New Boston Red Sox ace Chris Sale fanned 10 batters in six innings, improving to 2-0 this spring as the Sox defeated the New York Yankees 4-2 on Tuesday in Tampa, Fla. First baseman Sam Travis was 2-for-4 for the Red Sox.
New York right-hander Bryan Mitchell struck out seven and allowed seven hits in 4 1/3 innings. Matt Holliday belted a two-run homer in the sixth for the Yankees.
FT. MYERS – (Wire Service Report) – Boston Red Sox right-hander Rick Porcello will get the call to start the team’s Opening Day game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, manager John Farrell announced Wednesday. Farrell noted that the decision was made at the beginning of spring training and isn’t a result of the strained left elbow sustained by David Price, who was the team’s 2016 Opening Day starter.
“We had three candidates that were certainly worthy and capable,” Farrell said, referring to both Price and recently acquired left-hander Chris Sale.
“But I think there’s a lot to be said for the year Rick has had previous, the leader that he’s become on our team and the dependable pitcher that he is.”
Porcello, who will be opposed by Pittsburgh ace Gerrit Cole on April 3 at Fenway Park, posted a 22-4 mark with a 3.15 ERA last season en route to being named the American League Cy Young Award winner. Porcello, 28, led the league with a 5.91 strikeout-to-walk ratio and came in second in walks plus hits per innings pitched (WHIP) at 1.01.
Sale is expected to start Boston’s second game on April 5. Price is likely to start the season on the disabled list.
FT. MYERS – (Wire Service Report) – Boston Red Sox starting pitcher David Price is likely to start the season on the disabled list after the former Cy Young Award winner re-aggravated an elbow injury during spring training, the team announced Tuesday. Price, 31, experienced pain and swelling after throwing a simulated game on Feb. 28 and was later examined by surgeons James Andrews and Neal ElAttrache, who concluded that the injury did not require surgery.
“At this point, it would be hard to see him ready to go at the start of the season,” Red Sox manager John Farrell told ESPN.
Boston hosts the Pittsburgh Pirates in its season opener April 3.
Price threw for the first time since the injury popped up last Friday, but still has no timetable to move onto a more strenuous throwing program. Price told the Boston Globe his range of motion has already returned to normal.
“With the progress I’ve made right now, honestly (it’s) out of my mind,” Price said. “It’s been comforting the way the past probably three days have gone.”
Price posted a 17-9 record with a 3.99 ERA and 228 strikeouts over 230 innings last season, his first of a seven-year, $217 million pact with the Red Sox.