MIAMI--With a tip of its caps to a Colombian squad that battled all the way to the end, Team USA opened its run at the World Baseball Classic with a 3-2 10-inning walkoff victory in front of an electric crowd at Marlins Park on Friday night.
Orioles center fielder Adam Jones launched the final blow for the Americans against the team that had to qualify to get into the pool, driving in his second run of the game with two strikes and two outs against Guillermo Moscoso. After being no-hit by Colombian White Sox starter Jose Quintana for 5 2/3 innings, and with the visitors making no mistakes in the field, the hit for Team USA became a moment that Jones now ranks among his best.
"Big time," the 32-year-old said. "Obviously I had a lot of good moments with the Orioles playing against Major League Baseball teams, but this one playing against countries, obviously everything is individualized from country to country, this ranks up there pretty high.
"I tip my cap to Team Colombia; they played their tails off. Quintana and their defense, they completely I think just impressed everybody and hopefully that country, the baseball in that country continues to grow and grow and grow, because they got a bright future as a country with baseball."
Getting to represent his home country for the first time, Quintana was proud to be able to wear its colors encouraged by the effort of his team, but disappointed with the final outcome.
"Colombia is a country hungry to show itself, and Colombia did a great job today," the left-hander said. "We'll try tomorrow and from now on. We came here with a big dream and...we continue to get ahead. We did not win today, but tomorrow we'll be stronger and we'll try to continue improving our baseball to have those athletes that other countries have."
In the pitching duel that opened the Classic for both teams, Rays right-hander Chris Archer got the ball for Team USA and threw four perfect frames, using just 41 pitches, before manager Jim Leyland had to replace him on the mound because of stipulations set out by Tampa Bay.
"It was tough but fortunately Leyland and [pitching coach] Jeff Jones and everybody they were completely on board," Archer said. "We knew coming into this four or five months ago when I committed what it was going to be, and we stuck to the plan.
"I tip my hat to Quintana for going out there and taking the ball for his country, because I’m sure he only threw three innings in his last spring training start. It’s early so for him to go out there and do that and do what he did is extremely impressive. And tough loss, I’m glad I’m on our side, definitely, but it was impressive what he did."
Brandon Crawford, the Giants shortstop who kept the game perfect for Archer with a great play deep in the hole in the fourth inning, took the no-hitter away from Quintana when he singled with two outs in the sixth. The pitch he hit was the southpaw's 63rd, ending his night and opening the door for Team USA to plate two runs, Crawford coming around on a Jones double and Ian Kinsler scoring on a wild pitch from reliever William Cuevas.
Quintana was helped defensively by several outstanding plays from his Colombian squad, with multiple rob jobs from outfielders Tito Polo and Mauricio Ramos to help them get ahead - plating two runs in the fifth with back-to-back-to-back doubles off of Mychal Givens - and to keep the game tight.
"This was really a great game," Leyland said. "Certainly. We hung in there. I thought at times we were probably trying to do a little too much, but we did hit some balls real good. Center fielder [Polo] played an unbelievable game for them. We were probably a little anxious maybe and tried to do a little bit too much, but overall the pitching did a good job. We hung in there until we finally got the big hit.
"Let’s get one thing straight, let’s give this Colombia team some credit They really got out of a few jams and they battled their tails off. This game very easily could have gone either way."
Obviously disappointed with the end result of the matchup, Colombian manager Luis Urueta was proud of what his players were able to accomplish on the Classic stage for their country.
"We competed and things were done correctly," Urueta said. "We had a short meeting now after the game, and I told the guys that the end result was not important for us. It was to show the people what Colombia is being done with baseball. We played good baseball, unfortunately, we made some errors.
"With their experience overcame a couple bad pitches by Moscoso. The result was not good for us, but we are happy for the job we did, to be tied for 10 innings with the USA, I think it was satisfactory and the players should be proud."