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Team USA flashes more than just power in WBC win

SAN DIEGO -- While other countries have shown a lot of emotions during the World Baseball Classic, Team USA has been noted for being much more reserved. Buster Posey said, however, that while their personalities are not on display like other countries' clubs, the U.S. players are fired up and giving it their all.

Adam Jones showed that fire, as well as his emotion, on Wednesday night. After having grounded into a bases-loaded, inning-ending double play earlier in the game, Jones homered to tie the game 2-2 against Venezuela in the eighth inning. He finished off his blast by hopping and pumping his chest excitedly as he reached home plate.

"I think everyone is saying that Team USA lacks emotion, that we just go out there and play a game of baseball," Jones said. "We're emotional guys, but we just handle it a little different. Big home run and a lot of guys still weren't at home plate, they were still in the dugout. But you have to show some emotion."

Whether the players' emotions were on display or not, the U.S. showed its competitiveness on Wednesday by rallying to beat Venezuela 4-2 in the second round of the WBC at Petco Park. Three batters after Jones tied the game, Eric Hosmer followed up with a two-run blast. That was followed by loud chants of "U-S-A" from the fans, including one man costumed as George Washington.

"It's something bigger than baseball," shortstop Alex Bregman said of the WBC. "When we were growing up, we watched the Olympics on TV, and we rooted for our country so hard, and I know every country in the world does that. I kind of wish the WBC was more like that, about everybody locked in, rooting for their country and having a blast. Hopefully, it will continue to grow and get more people out watching."

Hopefully, they will. It was a big win for the U.S., which blew a 5-0 lead to the Dominican Republic in the first round of the WBC. The U.S. has never reached the final round of the WBC, but it is now tied with Puerto Rico at 1-0 in this round.

The U.S. will play Puerto Rico on Friday, while Venezuela will play Thursday night against the Dominican Republic -- the 2013 WBC champion that lost to Puerto Rico on Tuesday after having won its previous 11 games in the past two tournaments.

In addition to a contest between the U.S. and Venezuela, Wednesday's game was also a matchup between teammates -- Seattle Mariners starting pitchers Felix Hernandez and Drew Smyly. Both pitched well, allowing a combined six hits in 9⅔ innings, while striking out 11 and yielding no earned runs.

Smyly was very sharp, striking out eight batters in 4⅔ innings, including the final six batters he faced. Unfortunately, he also made a key throwing error on a bunt that later resulted in a sacrifice fly to give Venezuela a 1-0 lead.

Felix allowed two runs in 2⅔ innings in an eventual 11-0 loss to Puerto Rico in Venezuela's opening game of the WBC, but he was back in top form on Wednesday, pitching five scoreless innings, striking out three and allowing only three singles.

Reliever Hector Rondon was not nearly as good though, allowing the two home runs and five hits in the eighth inning to cost Venezuela the game.

"We were talking to the guys before the game that we need to keep the ball down with this lineup,'' Venezuela manager Omar Vizquel said. "Every time you bring the ball up with this lineup you're going to pay. That's what happened with Hosmer and also with Jones."

San Diego has been a special place for both Jones and Hosmer. The city is Jones' hometown, and Hosmer was the MVP of the All-Star Game here last summer on the strength of a home run and two RBIs. He said Wednesday's game was more special.

"It's just when you hear the 'U-S-A' chants," Hosmer said, "when you hear the crowd going crazy after a big swing or big play like those tonight, it makes it really fun to be a part of this."

Jones said he hasn't been in his hometown of San Diego during the month of March since 2003, when he still was in high school.

"It's kind of eerie being back here at this time,'' Jones said when asked what else he had planned in San Diego, other than playing in the WBC. "But I just saw my trainer, spoke with my family and let them know this is what we're here for. Everybody understands why I'm here. It's not really to party and hang out. I'm here to win games with these boys on Team USA."

Jones helped them do so on Wednesday. And he also apparently has been nicknamed Captain America of the U.S. team.

"I don't mind it one bit. I'm the leader of the Orioles, and I don't mind being the leader of this team," Jones said. "We have plenty of leaders on their respective team, and the beauty of this tournament is you come together with a bunch of great guys. We all have our own niches and things we add to the game. I just add intensity and passion, and the guys just feed off me."