Team USA is headed to the World Baseball Classic for the first time ever (!).
After a 2-1 victory over two-time WBC winner Japan, Team USA will play Puerto Rico Wednesday night for the title. Marcus Stroman is set to start for Team USA and Seth Lugo will do the same for Puerto Rico.
The standout playmaker for the Americans has been Orioles pie-thrower Adam Jones. Jones, a five-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove award winner, has dropped some jaws with huge plays that helped push Team USA to the finals.
Against Colombia in the first round, Jones hit a walk-off single that allowed Christian Yelich to score from third and lifted Team USA to a 3-2 victory in the tenth inning. His walk-off during Friday night's game in Miami is only the third in WBC history for Team USA. The other two came from David Wright and Alex Rodriguez.
Moving onto Saturday night's contest against the Dominican Republic, Jones made the highlight play of the 2017 WBC. In his hometown of San Diego, Jones robbed fellow Oriole Manny Machado of a monstrous home run. Nearly leaping into the stands, Jones somehow snagged the should-have-been-gone ball.
After the catch, Team USA pitcher Tyler Clippard could be seen on video mouthing “Oh my God,” while Machado couldn’t help but tip his hat to Jones as he ran back to the dugout. Team USA would go on to beat the Dominican Republic 6-3 and advance to the semi-finals.
The Orioles star told MLB.com that even he was stunned when he caught the ball.
I'm still in kind of shock that I even got to that ball ... I mean, off the bat I'm just like this ball's hit really far, so just keep going, keep going. You know this California air's going to slow it down, and just never quit. That's just the style I play with. I don't mind running into a wall or two.
The stats on that catch are pretty shocking, too. According to Statcast, Jones plays as shallow as any outfielder does, usually at 307 feet from the plate. However, on this play he was 321 feet out, helping him run down the ball with a leaping grab.
Statcast calculates that the ball left Machado's bat at a velocity of 106.2 mph and a launch angle of 26 degrees. Those numbers combined gives a batter a 95% chance of a hit and a 90% chance of a home run. But Machado's odds didn't mean much with Jones roaming center field.
After beating the Dominican Republic, Team USA moved on to play Japan Tuesday night and, for the third time, Jones made the difference. At the top of the eighth with the score tied at 1 apiece, he hit a go-ahead RBI which bounced off the glove of Japan’s third baseman Nobuhiro Matsuda, giving Brandon Crawford extra time to score before throwing Jones out at first. Team USA went on to beat WBC heavyweight Japan, 2-1.
If you have watched any of the WBC games, you can see just how much fun Jones is having throughout the series. Hopefully, the good times will keep rolling for Team USA as they play for the title tonight at 9 p.m. at Dodger Stadium.