The lesson came in the form of a pair of swings by U.S. first baseman Eric Hosmer. The first, in the fourth inning, produced a long drive but a loud out. The second, with the game tied in the eighth, lifted the Americans to victory as it cleared the wall for a go-ahead two-run shot.
After an off-day, the U.S. team will resume play on Friday against Puerto Rico (10 p.m. ET, live on MLB Network and MLB.TV), as both teams look to move to 2-0 in Pool F.
There wasn't a ton of difference between the two swings. Both came on high fastballs in similar spots. Both were well struck, at almost the same exit velocity. And both flew to the same general part of the ballpark, in right-center field.
In the fourth, Hosmer went up and got a 92-mph fastball from Venezuela starter Felix Hernandez, connecting at roughly a 103-mph exit velocity and a 34-degree launch angle. That is a combination that Statcast™ tells us typically produces success, with 76 percent of such batted balls going for home runs.
Unfortunately for Hosmer, this was a cool night at pitcher-friendly Petco, and a homer was not to be. The drive, with a projected distance of 387 feet, went to center field, where Venezuela's Ender Inciarte settled under it on the warning track, in front of the 396-foot marker.
Hosmer, who hit an infield single in the seventh, returned to the plate again with one out in the bottom of the eighth, three batters after Adam Jones smacked a game-tying solo shot. With Christian Yelich on first, Hosmer got a 94-mph fastball from Hector Rondon, just a bit farther inside than Hernandez's. This time, Hosmer felt he put a better swing on the ball.
"I think my second at-bat, I got a ball pretty good, just a little bit in off me, and it went to the warning track and almost got out," he said. "So I knew I got that ball better and I knew I had a chance."
In fact, Hosmer didn't hit the ball any harder, connecting with an exit velocity of 102 mph. He did strike it at a lower launch angle (25 degrees), creating more of a line-drive trajectory. In a vacuum, that combination is less likely to generate a homer, doing so 59 percent of the time. But on this occasion it worked, aided by the fact that Hosmer pulled the ball more toward right field.
With just those modest differences, the ball carried over the wall, reaching a projected distance of 404 feet. And just like that, the U.S. had a lead it wouldn't relinquish.
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