"Relentless" Effort Lifts Team USA Over Dominican Republic, Into Super Round
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.— Team USA faced its first bit of adversity in the Americas Qualifier on Tuesday night. It overcame it easily, and thus is moving on to the Super Round.
Team USA rallied for four runs during a wild sixth inning that saw manager Mike Scioscia get ejected, and the U.S. held on to beat the Dominican Republic 8-6 in a critical Pool A matchup at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.
Team USA improved to 2-0 with the comeback victory. It is guaranteed to finish either first or second in its pool, clinching a spot in the Super Round.
“It was an epic team win,” said second baseman Eddy Alvarez, who went 2-for-3 with two doubles and scored the go-ahead run in the sixth. “The energy was absolutely intense. Going into it we knew we were going to battle every single pitch, every single inning and it showed. We were relentless out there.”
Team USA’s relentlessness was on display throughout the evening. Facing its toughest opponent and biggest threat in the qualifier, Team USA scored six of its eight runs with two outs and responded immediately after it fell behind for the first time in the tournament.
After the Dominicans took a 5-4 lead on Diego Goris’ two-run homer in the top of the sixth, Team USA scored four runs in the bottom of the inning and never trailed again.
“It was an exciting game, almost like a heavyweight fight,” Scioscia said. “A lot of runs with two outs. A lot of key hits, clutch hits. We just chipped away and got some big hits with guys in scoring position.”
For a while, it appeared Team USA would cruise. Starter Joe Ryan struck out 10 through 4.2 innings and the offense pounced quickly to give the U.S. an early 4-1 lead. Triston Casas opened the scoring with a two-out, two-run double in the first and Alvarez served as the catalyst for two more runs the fourth. The Marlins second baseman worked a 15-pitch at-bat against Dominican starter Radhames Liz with two outs and capped it with a double off the wall. Mark Kolozsvary followed with a two-run homer to send Liz from the game.
“There's certain ABs in our careers that we go into absolute fight mode, and wearing the USA on my chest just amplifies that,” Alvarez said. “I was looking to do whatever it took to pull up something.”
The Dominican lineup came to life in the middle innings as Ryan faltered. The Rays prospect struck out Goris and Charlie Valerio to open the fifth, but couldn’t get out of the inning. Ryan issued a two-out walk to Luis Liberato, surrendered a double to Gustavo Nuñez and served up a two-run triple to Emilio Bonifacio that cut Team USA’s lead to 4-3. The Dominicans took the lead the following inning when Goris hit a two-out, two-run homer off of reliever Trevor Lane to make it 5-4, the first time Team USA trailed all tournament.
“They swung the bats well,” Scioscia said, “but our dugout, our guys, felt pretty good the whole game. We were upbeat.”
Team USA responded immediately. It promptly loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the sixth and Logan Forysthe delivered a pinch-hit RBI single to tie the score. Nick Allen beat out a double-play ball to allow Alvarez to score the go-ahead run and keep the inning alive, and Luke Williams followed with a two-run triple to cap a four-run outburst.
“We knew that one run was going to change anything,” Alvarez said. “Again, the team was absolutely relentless, especially with two outs. We put it together and just kept the line moving.”
The fireworks weren’t done. Todd Frazier lifted a high fly ball down the left-field line and unleashed an enormous bat flip in celebration when it appeared the ball went over the foul pole, but third base umpire Wilfredo Montoya called it foul. Scioscia came out to argue and, after the call was upheld after a video review, continued arguing with the umpires until he was ejected.
“My understanding from being in the major leagues is that if it's a fair or foul home run review, it's an umpire review, not a challenge that would go against the team if it doesn't work out,” Scioscia said. “So I was obviously wanting to go look at it, but then I was told it was gonna be a challenge which I didn't agree with.
“After a review and a decision is made, a (manager) is not allowed to approach the umpires again. But I thought it was important because I was told that it was a challenge that we lost and I knew that it wasn't and I was trying to get that clarification.”
Once things settled down, Team USA’s bullpen took it the rest of the way. Anthony Carter and D.J. Johnson retired the side in order in the seventh and eighth innings, respectively, and David Robertson worked around a leadoff homer by Juan Francisco in the ninth to nail down the save.
Team USA wraps up pool play against Puerto Rico on Wednesday. It will begin the Super Round on Friday against an opponent to be determined.