(Reuters) - Pitching dominated a tense 3-2 U.S. win over Colombia in Miami on Friday, settled by a 10th-inning, walk-off single by Adam Jones that ignited an emotional celebration by the Americans.
The victory in the opening World Baseball Classic (WBC) game for the hosts of Pool C was a major relief for the U.S., who have not done better than fourth place in the three previous WBC competitions.
Colombia starter Carlos Quintana held the Americans hitless into the sixth inning before leaving when he approached the 65-pitch limit. U.S. starter Chris Archer tossed four perfect innings and left amid a scoreless tie after 41 pitches.
The U.S. had six hits in the game, one more than Colombia.
In Mexico, 2013 runners-up Puerto Rico walloped Venezuela 11-0, ending it in the seventh inning on T.J. Rivera’s two-run homer that invoked the 10-run ‘mercy’ rule.
Puerto Rico jumped out to a 2-0 lead against starter “King” Felix Hernandez in the third and added three in the sixth on the way to victory as their pitchers stymied a Venezuela lineup that included Miguel Cabrera, Jose Altuve and Carlos Gonzalez.
Earlier in Tokyo, Alfredo Despaigne’s fifth-inning grand slam gave Cuba all the runs they would need in a 4-3 win over Australia to reach the second round for a fourth consecutive tournament.
Despaigne’s blast put Cuba ahead 4-1 and they held on to finish second in Pool B with a 2-1 record, setting up a showdown with surprise Pool A winner Israel on Sunday at Tokyo Dome.
For Australia, who have competed in the WBC all four times, the loss denied them a maiden berth in the second round.
Japan, who had already clinched first place in Pool B and a spot in the second round, routed China 7-1 to remain undefeated through three games.
The two-times WBC champions, who won each of their opening round games in dominant fashion, will open second-round play against the Netherlands on Sunday in Tokyo.
Defending champions Dominican Republic play the United States in one of four first-round games on Saturday.
Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto and Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Gene Cherry