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