Team USA advanced to the quarterfinals of the World Baseball Classic with a 3-2 win over Colombia on Wednesday, making up for a major drop to Mexico with straight wins.
The Americans finish second in Pool C at 3-1, tied with Mexico but losing the head-to-head tiebreaker. They will face Venezuela in the quarter-finals on Saturday in Miami (FS1).
USA captain Mike Trout was successful with all three RBIs for his team, going 3-for-4 with a triple on the night. The hit came in the fifth inning, with the Los Angeles Angels star hitting Will Smith and Mookie Betts to give the United States a 3-2 lead.
The American bullpen kept him going from there, with Kendall Graveman, Daniel Bard, David Bednar, Jason Adam, Devin Williams and Ryan Pressly all pitching scoreless innings after starter Merrill Kelly gave up two points in the third.
Advance to the quarter-finals might have seemed inevitable given the strength of the American roster, but the defending champions were in a precarious position after a tough 11-5 loss to Mexico in their second game. The United States found themselves forced to beat both Canada and Colombia, with a bizarre tiebreaker looming if they lost on Wednesday.
Team USA reaches bracket of World Baseball Classic
The United States was the last team to make it into the WBC group, hot on the heels of Puerto Rico after their upset win over the Dominican Republic in a de facto playoff earlier on Wednesday.
Winner of Pool A, Cuba has already qualified for the semi-finals thanks to a victory over Australia, second in Pool B. Japan, winner of Pool B, will face Italy, second in Pool A, and Mexico, Puerto Rico, second in Pool D. As it stands, the United States would face Cuba if they overtake Venezuela.
Venezuela, led by MLB stars Jose Altuve and Ronald Acuña Jr., looks like a tougher challenge than anything the United States has seen in the pool game, and the backstop that saved the Americans after the loss to Mexico is now gone.
Wednesday’s victory over Colombia means the United States continues its streak of advances out of pool play, which it has done at every World Baseball Classic since the inaugural tournament in 2006. But all of those All-Stars of MLB likely agreed to play with a back-to-back championship in mind, and now things are about to get tougher.