Two Seattle Mariners began the contest on the hill for Venezuela (2-1 in opening round) and the United States (2-1 in opening round) on Wednesday night. Left hander Drew Smyly for the U.S, and "King" Felix Hernandez for Venezuela.
Both pitchers dazzled with Smyly lasting 4 2/3, giving up just one unearned run (which he was responsible for due to a throwing error) and striking out eight. He struck out the final six hitters he faced. And for Venezuela, Hernandez lasted five, surrendering just three hits and punching out three.
Trailing 1-0 in the top of the seventh, United States and Chicago White Sox closer David Robertson surrendered a moonshot, no doubt home run to Rougned Odor to increase the U.S. deficit to 2-0.
With one out in the bottom of the seventh, Hosmer singled on a groundball off the diving glove of Odor. Paul Goldschmidt followed by reaching on Odor’s second fielding error of the game. After an Andrew McCutchen fly ball to the right field warning track sent Hosmer to third, Lucroy sent a first pitching offering from Arcenio Leon to deep right field. Despite a strong throw from Carlos Gonzalez, Hosmer scored standing up and the United States cut the deficit in half.
Newly acquired Phillies reliever Pat Neshek took the hill for the United State in the top of the eighth, and set Venezuela down in order. Hard-throwing Chicago Cubs reliever Hector Rondon took the reigns for the Venezuelans on the mound for the bottom of the eighth. His first assignment was Adam Jones. With the count knotted at two, Jones, the San Diego native, crushed a 96 MPH offering from Rondon over the left-center field fence to even the contest late at two.
Before Rondon had a chance to breathe, Christian Yelich singled to center to keep the U.S. threat going in the eighth. After Nolan Arenado flew out to left to continue his disappointing tournament, Hosmer crushed a first pitch offering from Rondon in to the seats in right center, giving the United States their first lead of the game at 4-2.
Luke Gregerson took the hill for the U.S. in the ninth and retired the first hitter he saw, Hernan Perez, on strikes. Treading lightly with former American League Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, Gregerson walked the daunting first baseman on four pitches, bringing up equally as dangerous, Victor Martinez.
The Houston Astros closer fell behind to Martinez 2-0, but after a mound visit from the U.S. coaching staff, Martinez sent the next offering into the 3-4 hole but fortunately, third baseman Arenado was stationed there, who fired to newly-inserted Brandon Crawford at second, who easily threw on to Hosmer at fist for the final out of the ballgame and a United States victory.
I said before in my previous article that the teams to watch were Puerto Rico, the United States and the Netherlands. Netherlands advanced to the next round after defeating Cuba in game three of their pool and Puerto Rico defeated the Dominican Republic in game one of their second round in San Diego on Tuesday night. Continue to look out for these teams moving forward.
Up next for the United States is a can’t miss and crucial matchup against Puerto Rico on Friday night at 10 p.m. On Thursday night in the San Diego Pool, the Dominican Republic will face Venezuela for a battle of 0-1 teams.