Sleepy slugger Stanton awakes just in time for surging U.S. at WBC

Dominican Republic's Nelson Cruz right is tagged out by United States catcher Jonathan Lucroy during the first inning of a second-round World Baseball Classic baseball game Saturday in San Diego. — AP

Sleepy slugger Stanton awakes just in time for surging U.S. at WBC

We are down to the final four of the 2017 World Baseball Classic, and the first semifinal matchup takes place on Monday night, with Puerto Rico taking on Netherlands at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.

Javier Baez's play Friday night assured that he won't be rejoining the Chicago Cubs until at least next Wednesday.

American starter Danny Duffy allowed two runs - one earned - in four-plus innings. They overcame a 5-0 deficit to beat the USA 7-5 in first-round play last week.

The Netherlands, Puerto Rico and Japan have already punched their tickets to the semifinals.

Finals: Los Angeles (Dodger Stadium) ~ One game elimination.

Brandon Crawford hit a two-out single to left-center ahead of Stanton's homer, which was estimated at 403 feet and chased Dominican starter Ervin Santana. The Marlins slugger hammered a clothesline-style shot beyond the left-field fence in the fourth inning like someone who clubbed 61 at a Home Run Derby, which he did - last July at this very same Petco Park. Puerto Rico beat Japan in the semifinals in 2013 before losing to the Dominican Republic.

Stanton got the US on the board in the second inning after hitting a weak single, going first to third on a single by Lucroy, then scoring on a groundout.

Team USA outfielder Adam Jones said he learned a lesson from that experience.

The situation seemed harmless enough: Two outs preceded a seemingly benign single as the No. 8 hitter limping through the World Baseball Classic at a.100 clip dug in. Any game between the US and the Dominican Republic is the WBC's marquee matchup, featuring the two most major-league heavy rosters in the tournament. After being down 2-0 after the first inning, Tigers second basemen Ian Kinsler had an RBI ground out in the third.

The U.S. defeated the Dominican Republic 6-3 on Saturday night at San Diego's Petco Park in an unforgettable Pool F game.

Two runs scored, and Puerto Rico had a 6-3 lead, and soon a berth in the championship round. Leyland realized the game could turn into a bullpen mess, particularly with the next game scheduled 24 hours later.

Team Venezuela promptly bounced back with a two-run homer from Rougned Odor, but failed to build on that momentum during the last three innings of the afternoon.

But U.S. outfielder Adam Jones jumped high onto the fence and stretched his left hand into the crowd to make a brilliant catch, plucking the ball nearly out of a spectator's hand. "After every game we play, the confidence keeps improving".

There's only been 3 HRs hit harder than the one Stanton just hit.

"It's a sense of pride to play for Puerto Rico, " says Aviles, an infielder for the Cleveland Indians.

On social media, the party took a decidedly more pointed approach, as jokes rolled in about this being a game for Puerto Rican independence.

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