With last night’s 2-1 win over Japan, the United States advanced to the final of the World Baseball Classic for the first time.
Tonight at 9:00 PM EDT in Dodger Stadium, Puerto Rico awaits in the Championship game.
U.S. skipper Jim Leyland talked about making it to the finals when he was asked if he felt pressure to reach this point after Team USA fell short of expectations in the WBC in 2006, 2009 and 2013, with their fourth-place finish in ‘09 their previous best showing.
“I said coming into this event I didn't really want to talk about the fact that the United States has never won it, they've never gone to the finals,” Leyland explained.
“I didn't think that was a big deal. What I wanted to make this, like I said, I wanted this for the players to be a memory. And I've talked a lot about it, ‘Make a memory.’”
“Hopefully, it's a real good one, regardless of the results tomorrow. I know it is for me. It's been an absolute honor.
“But, no, I did not feel pressure. A lot of people wanted to make a big deal about that. I don't feel that kind of pressure.”
Leyland said he and his team were a little more familiar with the players from Puerto Rico they’ll take on tonight, but they also know how strong a team they’ll be facing.
“We know it's a very good team,” he said, “and we certainly have the utmost respect for what they've accomplished so far.
“We've got to derail a team that's been on a roll, that's in good spirits.
“And we're in those same good spirits. Our guys are pretty happy right now. They'll be ready to play.”
Here’s the [once again Daniel Murphy-free] lineup that Jim Leyland is sending out against Puerto Rico tonight in LA: