Team USA falls apart in crushing loss to Dominican Republic

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Team USA held its destiny in its hands. After getting off to a hot start on Saturday, a chance to advance to the second round without any drama was within reach. Twelve outs to be exact.

Then it all fell apart.

The Dominican Republic overcame a five-run deficit by scoring seven unanswered runs, including a four-run outburst in the eighth inning, to hand the American squad a crushing 7-5 defeat.

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A crowd of 37,446, which is the largest ever for a baseball game at Marlins Park, provided a postseason type atmosphere. The fans were largely in favor of the Dominican Republic, with Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan estimating a 90-10 split. The lack of support didn’t stop Team USA from putting on an impressive show early, but the Dominican Republic rode the wave of energy that built throughout its comeback to avoid its first WBC loss since 2009.

USA manager Jim Leyland seemed to get the situation he wanted. Andrew Miller took the ball with a two-run lead in the eighth inning coming off his lights out postseason for the Cleveland Indians. It just didn’t go to script. A hit batter and single set the table for Nelson Cruz, who launched the go-ahead three-run homer.

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Starling Marte followed two batters later with his own home run to cap the the scoring.

Dominican Republic's Robinson Cano (22) is met by his teammates after scoring on a single by Carlos Santana. (AP)
Dominican Republic’s Robinson Cano (22) is met by his teammates after scoring on a single by Carlos Santana. (AP)

No blame will go on Team USA starting pitcher Marcus Stroman. He was in full control on the hill, allowing three hits over 4 2/3 scoreless innings. He racked up four strikeouts, including one of Blue Jays teammate Jose Bautista. The wheels started coming off in the middle innings, when reliever Tanner Roark surrendered three runs.

Team USA got on the board first after taking advantage of some shaky outfield defense. Starling Marte and Nelson Cruz failed to communicate on Adam Jones’ line drive to the right-field gap in the third inning, which allowed the ball to reach the wall and Ian Kinsler to race around from first base. Jones was nearly waved home too, but ultimately scored on Christian Yelich’s RBI single.

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After Team USA stretched its lead to 5-0, the Dominican Republic finally got on the board in the sixth on a monster 435-foot home run from Manny Machado.

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Another run crossed in the sixth on Carlos Santana’s RBI single. Welington Castillo’s RBI double in the seventh cut it to 5-3, and Team USA could never get it turned back around.

The loss dropped Team USA to 1-1 in Pool C and positions it for a potential must-win on Sunday against Canada. That will all depend on the outcome of the Dominican Republic’s game against the impressive team from Colombia. If Colombia wins, Team USA would need a win to force a three-way tie, which would then invoke some crazy tiebreaker rules that are explained here very thoroughly.

Canada enters needing a win just to qualify for the 2021 WBC, so there’s plenty to play for on both sides. First pitch for that game is set for 7:00pm ET.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!