By Craig Bohnert | March 19, 2017, 4:06 a.m. (ET)
U.S. players celebrate after beating the Dominican Republic 6-3 in World Baseball Classic Pool F Game 6 at Petco Park on March 18, 2017 in San Diego.

 

In a dramatic win-or-go-home showdown, Team USA stayed alive in the 2017 World Baseball Classic by defeating the Dominican Republic 6-3 Saturday night at Petco Park in San Diego, earning a berth in the tournament’s semifinal round for only the second time.

The game was a rematch of one from one week earlier, when the Dominicans scored four runs in the bottom of the eighth when home runs by Nelson Cruz and Starling Marte stunned the Americans with a 7-5 win in the first round of round robin play.

On Saturday, The Dominican Republic opened the scoring in the bottom of the first when Robinson Cano took a full count offering from Danny Duffy to left field for a double that scored Manny Machado. Cano then scored when Carlos Santana lined sharply to right. Duffy then worked his way out of a jam in the bottom of the second to give his teammates a jolt of confidence.

Riding that confidence, Ian Kinsler’s fielder’s choice drove in Stanton in the top of the third, and the Detroit Tiger then tied the game by scoring from first on a liner to center field off the bat of Christian Yelich.

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Giancarlo Stanton put Team USA on top in the fourth inning. Standing in the same batter’s box where he launched 61 homers last July to win the Home Run Derby, Stanton crushed an Ervin Santana pitch into the third deck down the left field line, scoring Brandon Crawford and giving the host nation a 4-2 advantage. The ball’s exit velocity was measured at 117 miles per hour.

After Manny Machado’s single chased Duffy to open the bottom of the fifth, Nelson Cruz smoked a one-out double down the third base line off Pat Neshek to put two runners in scoring position. The Philadelphia Phillies right hander was able to coax Santana to pop out to third for the second out, then ended the threat by striking out Marte in a duel that saw the Pittsburgh Pirates left fielder foul off four straight pitches before going down swinging.

Playing in his hometown, Adam Jones protected the Team USA lead with a defensive gem in the bottom of the seventh, extending four feet over the top of the center field wall to rob Baltimore Orioles teammate Machado of a home run.

“Off the bat, I thought ‘Oh, Manny got him,’” Jones told MLB Network after the game, “I knew this California air was going to slow the ball down, so I just kept going and kept going. I am still in awe of that catch. I’m still in awe that I was able to catch it.”

Cano sent one over the left field fence the next at-bat to trim the margin in half, but Jones’ fielding gem preserved the lead.

Team USA added two insurance runs in the top of the eighth when Andrew McCutchen’s double to center scored Yelich and Eric Hosmer for a 6-3 cushion.

Stanton and Crawford both were 2-4 to lead Team USA’s offense. Duffy earned the win by allowing only two runs in four innings, while Luke Gregerson picked up his second save of the tournament with a scoreless ninth inning.

The only other time Team USA reached the World Baseball Classic semifinal round, it fell to Japan 9-4. The Americans will meet Japan in the semifinal once again on Tuesday in the second of two semifinal games at Dodger Stadium. Puerto Rico will face the Netherlands in the first semi, with the winners to meet in Wednesday’s championship game. If Team USA advances to the championship game, it will have defeated the two teams that have won the World Baseball Classic: Japan won the first two in 2006 and 2009, while the Dominican Republic took the 2013 title.