Team USA advances in World Baseball Classic

The tournament brought together the United States, Dominican Republic, Colombia, and Canada. Canadian stars like Joey Votto didn't participate, and while Canadian baseball players are talented in their own right, it's harder for them to hide that kind of loss that teams like the U.S. or Dominican Republic could shrug off thanks to depth.

Team USA might face the Dominican Republic and its crazy-deep lineup again in this tournament, but it will not again contend with the same type of raucous, joyous opposing crowd.

Danny Duffy became the third consecutive US starter to turn in a scoreless outing. Not in Los Angeles, site of the championship round. Baseball might traditionally be America's pastime, but our infectious love of the game has spread to Latin America and Asia. Nelson Cruz took Andrew Miller deep in the eighth inning with a three-run shot, followed by another homerun from Starling Marte.

On a day when Royals catcher Salvador Perez suffered a knee injury while playing for Venezuela - providing a fresh opening for critics of the tournament - the drama and electricity at Marlins Park was a vivid reminder of the best this event has to offer.

"I don't want anybody down", Leyland said. "But today was unreal".

The Dominican Republic's Edinson Volquez, making his fifth career WBC start, allowed three runs - one earned - in 32/3innings.

The pitcher letting down America here was Tanner Roark, who (in this Orioles fan's mind) was bewildered by the raucous atmosphere in a stadium packed by Dominican fans and was unable to focus, having never experienced anything like it in his home stadium in Washington, DC.

What it meant to Pat Neshek, an affable journeyman right-handed reliever who pumped both of his fists, screamed and looked skyward after striking out Jesus Valdez with two on and two out in the top of the ninth to help send that thriller into extra innings?

"Even still right now", Roark said. "You've got a bunch of horns and sirens and all that going on".

So, did the crowd get to him? "I think I need to channel it a little better, block it out, slow the game down. I think that's the wrong avenue to go down". The fact that Jim Leyland, his first big league manager, is Team USA's manager was a motivating factor.

Cruz said it was like that, but at a higher level, and he reacted in kind.

Miller, whose acquisition from the Yankees previous year helped drive the Indians to the World Series, had not allowed two homers in one appearance as a reliever since September 22, 2015.

"When the rosters were released it was incredible to see how many Rawlings Advisory Staff Members were on WBC teams", said Thompson.

Had he ever been that excited? The 39-year-old right-hander's comeback after being retired since 2013 has been a curiosity, but it didn't do much for Canada's cause as he allowed seven runs in 2½ innings over two starts.

The next hitter, Carlos Santana, hit a sharp grounder up the middle that was perhaps five feet away from being turned into a double play. Second baseman Ian Kinsler made a great play to range and get a glove on the ball, but he couldn't get any outs.

Next came Cruz, with two on and none out. Then he went 2-for-4 against the Canadians with a pair of runs scored.

Marte, starting in center field and batting eighth, was 3 for 4 with a single, double and the home run.

Team USA entered the game in control of its destiny thanks to the Dominican Republic's earlier win against Colombia. But more complex scenarios are possible.

The U.S. begins the next round of pool play Tuesday at Petco Park in San Diego. A loss by Venezuela would put three teams at 1-2 in Pool D and force a tiebreaker game. And one more game would be necessary Monday. The Dominican Republic have shown the rest of the world they are determined to keep their WBC crown and have no plans relinquishing it. We breathe baseball 24/7. We'll just see how it plays out. "This is the only baseball we know".