San Francisco

USA Eliminates Japan, 2-1, to Advance to First Ever WBC Final

Adam Jones knocked in the game-winning run for the United States and Team USA defeated Japan, 2-1, to advance to the World Baseball Classic Final against Puerto Rico on Wednesday.

Mama, there goes that man again.

Adam Jones knocked in the game-winning run for the United States and Team USA defeated Japan, 2-1, to advance to the World Baseball Classic Final against Puerto Rico on Wednesday.

Through the mists of rain, both countries were entangled in a white-knuckle battle that lasted the better part of three hours.

"Who would have thought we'd be playing this type of game in Los Angeles?" said Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen of the weather conditions. "I don't think I've ever seen this type of weather in the years I've come here. But I play for Pittsburgh so I'm pretty used to that weather."

The Americans got on the board first when McCutchen hit a two-out single to left field that started the scoring for the Stars and Stripes in the fourth inning.

"It was big to be able to come through and put the first run on the board," said McCutchen. "It felt good to be able to do that and come through."

Japan second baseman Ryosuke Kikuchi started the inning with an error on a Christian Yelich grounder, allowing the Miami Marlins outfielder to reach second base and eventually score.

"The team that makes the most mistakes will lose," said Japanese manager Hiroki Kokubo. "It's do or die, one semifinal. Although we lost, the players did their best and I really appreciate that."

However, Kikuchi would redeem himself with a solo shot to right-center that tied the game in the sixth inning. 

Both starting pitchers were stellar with Washington Nationals' right-hander Tanner Roark throwing four scoreless innings and Japan's Tomoyuki Sugano allowing just one unearned run through six innings.

"Conditions were a little tough sometimes, but otherwise I felt great," said Roark who only threw 48 pitches because of a restriction put in place by the Washington Nationals. "I felt good enough to stay out there, but I wasn't allowed to."

Other than the costly error by Kikuchi, Tomoyuki kept the Americans more off-tilt than an elephant on a balance beam, striking out six in six frames.

USA took the lead in the top of the 8th inning when Jones, the hero for the U.S. throughout the tournament, hit a slow bleeder as soft as rain down the third baseline that was bobbled by Japanese third baseman, Nobhurio Matsuda, allowing Brandon Crawford to score the go-ahead run. 

The San Francisco Giants shortstop started the rally with a one-out single, and advanced to third on a double to the gap in left-center by Detroit Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler.

Houston Astros' closer Luke Gregerson picked up the save with a 1-2-3 inning amidst the chants of "USA, USA, USA!" in the bottom of the ninth inning.

"They were loud and we feed off that," added Roark of the atmosphere of the crowd. "We love a loud crowd chanting USA." It gets your adrenaline pumping and gets you going." 

It was the first time the stars and stripes have advanced to the WBC final in the fourth installment of the largest international baseball tournament in the world.

The Americans knocked out the two-time champions, exacting revenge on a 2009 semifinal loss that eliminated the U.S. and sent Japan on to the final.

Tuesday night's game was the third time the nations', former foes, now friends, have met in the WBC. In the inaugural year of the tournament in 2006, the U.S. eliminated Japan in controversial fashion with Alex Rodriguez delivering the game-winning in RBI in that contest. 

The Championship Game will be held on Wednesday at 6:00PM against Puerto Rico who recorded the first walk-off semifinal/final game in WBC history against the Netherlands on Tuesday night. 

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