PHOENIX — Team USA entered Wednesday’s game against Colombia knowing that a victory sealed a date for them in the quarterfinals of the World Baseball Classic. In a roster brimming with superstars and a handful of future Hall of Famers, it was once again captain Mike Trout who led the way, going 3 for 4 with all three RBIs as the USA clinched their ticket to Miami in its quest to be the last team standing by virtue of a 3-2 win.
“I just think he’s one of the best players ever at the end of the day,” manager Mark DeRosa said of Trout. “He had just made 16, 17 at-bats in spring training and nobody’s in mid-season shape like that, but I think some of those games we played – Mexico got us woke up. He had great abs in the match against Canada. That ball he hit right to start was pretty special. It looks really good in the dish. He’s just super confident in what he’s capable of.
That aforementioned ball to the right came in the first inning at Chase Field, a 112.5 mph laser that hit the right center field fence in no time. Trout moved up to third, setting the tone for his next two times on the flat: an RBI single in the third that opened the scoring and a two-run hit in the fifth that gave the United States the lead.
Trout formed a dynamic tandem atop the US Command alongside Mookie Betts, who delivered a multi-hit performance himself. All four balls Betts put in play were rated as “heavy hitting” (north of 95+ mph), and he was twice the beneficiary of a Trout scorer hit.
“All I have to do is get to base and I’ve got it behind me,” Betts said. “I know I’m going to have pitches to hit, they don’t want me walking around to join him with somebody on base. It’s just fun when you take off the uniform and play for your boy.
Next up for the United States is a matchup with Venezuela (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, FOX), which swept Pool D. Going forward, all games in the 2023 World Baseball Classic will be contests at knockout, which means the United States will need to win three straight wins to be crowned back-to-back champions.
In 2013, David Wright earned the nickname “Captain America” for serving as the driving force behind the American offense at the World Baseball Classic. In 2023, the captain is another Trout fan favorite, one who convinced a historic group of talents to converge with the hopes of becoming back-to-back champions on the world stage.
Across four games, the numbers between the two have drawn parallels:
Wright: 7 for 16, 1 HR, 10 RBI, .438/.526/.750
Trout: 5 for 12, 1 HR, 6 RBI, .417/.588/.833
“I knew the vibe was going to be electric,” Trout said. “I talked to [Adam] Wainwright on it during the game [against] Canada. It’s been the most fun experience I’ve had on a baseball field – representing your country. It’s been awesome.
“Hearing ‘US-A’ chanted in the ninth inning, you’re looking in the stands and people are waving the American flag – it means a lot to all of us. Playing for our country, it’s been really fun.
For all the attention on the All-Stars, Silver Sluggers and MVPs that dot the starting nine, the fact that Team USA assembled a bullpen unit full of fireballs and stopper arms went wide. unnoticed. But in a one-inning affair, the group of Kendall Graveman, Daniel Bard, David Bednar, Jason Adam, Devin Williams and Ryan Pressley held the line, limiting the Colombian roster to just two singles with nine strikeouts from six dominating frames. .
“It depends on the players. You can sit all night and script it, plan it — they have to execute,” DeRosa said. “Could they have done [any] better? Devin Williams threw one [prior] throwing all the pool game and looking good mid-season. David Bednar’s radiator explodes. Jason Adam has electric weapons. It was nice to see Bard bounce back. And Pressly has been in the biggest moments in the big leagues these last seems like five, six years. Just awesome dominance and execution by these guys.
For Colombia (1-3), the defeat is a disappointing end to a 2023 Classic that started with great promise. Despite holding the only victory over the winners of Pool C (Mexico, 3-1), Colombia will have to enter the qualification phase in the hope of returning to the WBC in 2026. Great Britain (1-3) , whose Cinderella story led to him earning a spot in Arizona, qualified for the next iteration of the World Baseball Classic by virtue of its victory over Colombia on Monday.
The level of Major League-experienced talent that the American outfit boasts was hard to fight for the four opposing managers by pool play. Colombian skipper Jolbert Cabrera was proud of his team’s efforts and looks forward to continuing to participate in the growth of baseball in his country, but he aptly described the conundrum of competing against a team that has as many skills as the Americans.
“Today’s game, you’re fighting against a 15-headed monster,” Cabrera said through an interpreter. “You cut one, two more come out and replace the old one.”