Trevor Plouffe (Twins) homered with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to give Team USA its ninth straight victory in World Cup play, a 4-3 win against Australia that allowed the Americans to close the second round with a perfect 7-0 record.
Team USA now advances to the third round as the No. 1 seed from the Italian pool (officially Pool G). So in the third round, the U.S. will start by playing the fourth-place team from Pool F (the Netherlands pool), which happens to be Venezuela—which beat Team USA 13-9 in the World Cup opener for both clubs.
Jason Childers (Rays), who gave up a five-spot to the Venezuelans in that loss, was part of another strong bullpen effort for the Americans on Monday, as he threw two scoreless innings. Cory Luebke (Padres) started and went six-plus innings, giving up three runs (one earned). A Pedro Alvarez (Pirates) throwing error was a key blow in the Aussie seventh-inning rally, when they scored a pair of runs to take a 3-2 lead.
Plouffe drove in the tying run for the U.S. in the seventh with a run-scoring groundout off reliever Tim Cox, a lefthander and former Red Sox farmhand. Plouffe then homered to left off Cox to end the game, his second hit of the game as he extended his hitting streak in the event to nine games.
The U.S. scored its first two runs in the sixth with a solo homer by Justin Smoak (Rangers), his World Cup-record ninth of the tournament, and with the help of an error and RBI fielder’s choice by Jon Weber (Rays).
Luke Hughes (Twins) had three hits of Australia’s six hits but also made an error while playing third base.
Team USA plays Venezuela on Tuesday in Florence (Firenze), Italy, one of four third-round sites in Italy.