WATCH: Team USA goes for first ever gold medal in WBC tonight vs. Puerto Rico

0
Baseball: World Baseball Classic-USA at Japan
March 21, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; USA infielder Ian Kinsler (3) reacts after he hits a double in the eighth inning against Japan during the 2017 World Baseball Classic at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

In case you have not been tuning in to any sort of baseball this month, you would be missing out on potential history. Tonight, the United States goes for gold in the World Baseball Classic Championship against Puerto Rico.

Team USA squeaked by Team Japan, the two-time champion of the WBC, 2-1 on Tuesday in Los Angeles in the second of two semifinals to clinch their first ever spot in the title game. That pushed their record to 5-2 overall in the tournament this month. Regardless of how tonight’s game is played out, it will be the best finish for Team USA in the relatively short history of the WBC.

So who has been getting it done for the Americans over the last couple weeks? As far as the regulars, the offense has bee ignited by Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford, Marlins’ outfielder Christian Yelich and Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer. Here is what they have done in the tournament thus far:

CRAWFORD HOSMER YELICH
GMS 7 7 7
AVG. .478 (9-21) .444 (9-24) .370 (7-24)
XBH 4 4 3
RBI 4 5 2

[Player/Team stats courtesy of World Baseball Classic Official Website]

There are a few other guys that should receive some respectable consideration. The Tigers’ very own Ian Kinsler has put together a nice showing for his country, going 6-25 in six games played with an RBI, and cracking his first extra-base hit of the tournament in Tuesday’s 2-1 win over Japan. Kinsler’s double allowed Crawford to reach third base, who subsequently scored on an RBI ground out from Orioles’ outfielder Adam Jones to put Team USA ahead.

And speaking of Jones, he’s had a superb performance in the WBC as well. The average is not sexy at .226, but he’s tied for the team lead in homers (2) and RBI (5). He also has the play of the tournament thus far, a game-saving, homer-robbing catch in the second round elimination game against the Dominican Republic.

Team USA had some impressive pitching performances along the way as well. Rays’ ace Chris Archer, newly-acquired Mariners’ southpaw Drew Smyly and Royals’ left Danny Duffy have turned in above-quality outings:

ARCHER SMYLY DUFFY
STARTS 1 1 2
INN. 4.0 4.2 8.0
RUNS 0 1 (0 ER) 2 (1 ER)
HITS 0 3 8
SO 3 8 8
BB 0 0 1

[Player/Team stats courtesy of World Baseball Classic Official Website]

The bullpen has been on lock down mode too, most notably Rangers’ closer Sam Dyson, Astros’ closer Luke Gregorson and his teammate, Pat Neshek. This trio has combined to hurl 12 scoreless frames, allowing just three hits (all from Neshek) and one base on balls (Gregorson), punching out eight batters.

Wednesday’s title bout will be a rematch of second round pool play between the U.S. and Puerto Rico, a game that the Americans loss 6-5. Puerto Rico has yet to lose in this tournament so far, a perfect 7-0. It’s the second consecutive appearance for Puerto Rico in the title game, after finishing runner-up to the Dominican Republic in 2013. They too will be looking for their first gold medal.

Baseball: World Baseball Classic-USA at Japan
Mar 21, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; United States right fielder Andrew McCutchen (right) celebrates with center fielder Adam Jones (10) after beating Japan 2-1 during the 2017 World Baseball Classic at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

The Team USA pitching staff will need to hunker down once again. The Puerto Rican lineup features a host of guys hitting over .300 in the WBC with a minimum of 20 official at-bats. They have been led by a tantalizing trio of Indians’ phenom shortstop Francisco Lindor, and Astros’ teammates Carlos Correa and Carlos Beltran. These three are hitting a combined .438 (28-64) with eight extra-base hits and 18 RBI.

Team USA skipper Jim Leyland will be giving the ball to Blue Jays’ hurler Marcus Stroman. It will be his third start of the tournament. His last time out was against Puerto Rico, when they tagged him for four runs in the first inning. He went on to throw five in that outing, and it’s the only runs he’s allowed thus far in the WBC.

You can catch the U.S. and Puerto Rico tonight at 9 p.m. ET on MLB Network and streaming live on MLB.tv. It will be Stroman vs. Mets prospect Seth Lugo on the bump. Lugo has made two starts already in the WBC, allowing three earned runs over 11.2 innings of work.