The United States advanced to the Quarter Finals in the World Baseball Classic with a 3-2 victory over Colombia on Wednesday night. The victory means Venezuela is the next opponent for Team USA. Here are the three big key the United States must do to move on to the semi-finals against Cuba
The 3 Big Keys For The United States To Beat Venezuela.
1. Pitching Continues To Keep Opposition In Check.
In the last two games in the World Baseball Classic, the weak point of this United States, the starting pitching, has turned a corner. Lance Lynn was dominant in the zone. Racking up six strikeouts in five innings pitched in the 12-1 mercy win over Canada on Monday. Merrill Kelly pitched out of trouble a few times on Wednesday during his start but was solid overall in his three innings of work.
The bullpen did allow a run in the six innings they worked on Wednesday. Kendall Graveman worked an inning and even picked off a runner. The bottom line is if the pitching can continue limiting runs, the high-powered offense of Team USA should provide enough support.
The flip side of this is that Venezuela is a hot team coming into this game with four straight wins in pool play. Venezuela has 23 runs on 38 hits in the tournament so far. On the pitching side, they have a 2.00 ERA so far. Team Venezuela is a top offense and will capitalize on the mistakes of the pitchers of Team USA.
2. Work The Walk and The Pitch Count.
As good as Team Venezuela has been, the pitching staff is a bit wild. As a team, they have allowed 12 walks in the 36 innings so far this tournament. Compare that to the four walks that Team USA has allowed in their 32 innings pitched.
With this offense, the free passes should come back to haunt Venezuela. The United States offense was the main factor of this team. Even so, so far, it had has its own issues in pool play. Working the count and getting the pitcher to that 80-pitch limit could work to the advantage of this team.
The best part of the deep offense of Team USA is every hitter can do damage. With a top four line of Mookie Betts, Mike Trout, Paul Goldschmidt, and Nolan Arenado, these are four of the top hitters in the game right now. With these four leading the charge, it will usually cause issues for most pitchers on the opponent’s team. If those guys can get hot at the right time and maintain it for the last three games of this tournament, there is no reason they can’t run the table to the title.
3. Limiting The Damage.
Unfortunately, Venezuela will score runs on Saturday night in Miami. The main question is will the team limit the damage? On Wednesday, Merrill Kelly was great at that. Colombia had the bases loaded twice and he worked out of the situation once with zero runs allowed.
Venezuela, like the United States, has possibly sent the most talented roster it could muster. They have American League batting champion Luis Arraez in the lineup alongside all-stars, Jose Altuve and Ronald Acuna Jr. Without a doubt, not letting these guys beat you will be the key to the United States moving on to the semi-finals against Cuba. With both the Venezuela line-up and a pitching staff that can go toe to toe with the United States, this doesn’t include the noise advantage they will more than likely have.
This game essentially comes downs to a couple of things: can the pitching handle the offense of Venezuela enough for the United States offense to score? Can the hitters handle the loudness of Loan Depot Park in Miami?
This game might be the toughest challenge the United States faces until the possible finals on Tuesday night. Without looking ahead to that game, they must take care of business against Venezuela on Saturday night.
Main Image: Joe Rondone/The Republic / USA TODAY