SAN DIEGO – (Special to Digital Sports Desk by The Sports Xchange) – The United States has made it to the final round of the World Baseball Classic for the second time. Giancarlo Stanton hit a tie-breaking two-run homer in the fourth inning. Andrew McCutchen added two-run double in the eighth and the U.S. avenged a first-round loss to the Dominican Republic with a 6-3 elimination victory in the second round of the WBC at Petco Park on Saturday.
The U.S advanced to face two-time champion Japan in a semifinal game at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday, after Puerto Rico meets the Netherlands in the first semifinal Monday. Puerto Rico and Japan, both 6-0, are the only unbeaten teams in the tournament.
The Dominican Republic, the defending WBC champion after winning all eight of its games in 2013, took a 2-0 lead in the first inning Saturday but could not hold on. It overcame a 5-0 deficit to beat the U.S. 7-5 in first-round play last week.
Manny Machado reached on an error by Brandon Crawford with one out in the first inning and scored on a Robinson Cano double off Danny Duffy (2-0). Carlos Santana singled in Cano.
Stanton and Jonathan Lucroy singled to open the third inning for the U.S. off Ervin Santana (0-1), and Stanton scored on Ian Kinsler’s forceout at second. Christian Yelich’s two-out double tied the game at 2. Yelich has seven hits and three walks in six games.
Crawford singled with two outs in the fourth inning before Stanton hit the next pitch into the second balcony of the Western Metal Supply Co. building down the left-field line for a 4-2 lead.
Cano’s homer made it 4-3 in the seventh, one batter after U.S. center fielder Adam Jones leaped up and reached over the wall in right-center field to take homer away from Machado.
Yelich walked and Alex Colome hit Eric Hosmer before McCutchen doubled with one out in the eighth for a 6-3 U.S. lead.
Sam Dyson got five outs, and Luke Gregerson pitched the ninth for a save.
HOW THE GAME WAS WON: U.S. manager Jim Leyland started right fielder Giancarlo Stanton for the first time in the second round, and the move proved prescient. Stanton singled and scored in a two-run third inning and hit a long homer in the fourth. He had been 1-for-10 in the WBC. Danny Duffy pitched out of a second-and-third, no-out situation in the second inning by retiring Jose Reyes, Manny Machado and Robinson Cano to keep the U.S. deficit at a manageable 2-0.
MISSED OPPORTUNITY: The Dominican Republic left runners on first and second with one out in the first inning and runners on second and third with no outs in both the second and fifth innings. All told, the Dominicans left six runners in scoring position. A runner was held at third base while running from first on a double into the left-field corner with no outs in both the second and fifth.
TIP OF THE CAP: Dominican outfielder Gregory Polanco had three hits — a double and two singles — and finished the tournament 11-for-19 with two doubles, a homer and a stolen base. Fernando Rodney threw 1 2/3 scoreless innings, getting out of a two-on, one-out situation with a double-play grounder in the fifth inning.
UP NEXT: The United States will play Japan in the second WBC semifinal Tuesday at Dodger Stadium. The Dominican Republic’s players will head to Arizona and Florida for the final two weeks off spring training. Manager Jim Leyland had said the U.S. might get the services of starter Jeff Samardzija and reliever Mark Melancon for the final round