Apparently it will never be easy for Team USA.
Just five outs away from elimination, the U.S. rallied for three eighth-inning runs to take the lead over Canada. The U.S. then survived a bases-loaded bottom of the eighth before finally putting the game away in the ninth with a bases-clearing Eric Hosmer double. The 9-4 final score does not really explain just how tense an affair it was for USA Baseball which trailed for much of the game and didn't take its first lead until the eighth inning.
The U.S. now joins Italy in moving on to the second round in Miami. The U.S. will face the loser of Sunday night’s Puerto Rico-Dominican Republic game. It’s a step toward the U.S. team's goal of moving on to the finals in San Francisco, but more than anything it avoids a nightmarish exit.
"It would have been embarrassing to me," U.S. second baseman Brandon Phillips said. “If we would have lost, we wouldn’t have done our job. We want to be the first American team to win the World Baseball Classic.” [...] Continue Reading »
There are few tougher jobs in baseball than serving as the Team USA manager for the World Baseball Classic. Venezuela manager Luis Sojo may argue that point these days, but few managers are ever presented with the Hobson's Choices that Joe Torre faces.
The first job of a Team USA manager is to ask, plead and if necessary cajole players to agree to play in the World Baseball Classic. Once that's done, you then have to go back and promise their teams that you'll take good care of them. Pitchers won't be overused and players won't sit on the bench for the whole tournament, returning to their teams behind on their timetable of getting ready for the season. Putting the best lineup on the field sometimes is a secondary concern.
That's the explanation for Team USA's lineup for its Sunday game against Canada. In a must-win game where the winner advances to the second round, Torre had to shuffle things up. Ben Zobrist starts in right field. Ryan Braun gets to rest his legs by playing at designated hitter. And Shane Victorino gets his first start of the tournament in left field.
The odd man out–Giancarlo Stanton. [...] Continue Reading »
If Mexico pitcher Arnold Leon had been pitching in a regular season big league game when he plunked Canada's Rene Tosoni, he'd have some free time coming up and it would be hitting his paycheck. The same could likely be said for Tosoni, Mexico third baseman Luis Cruz (who was seen obviously telling Leon to plunk Tosoni) and others.
But a dirty little secret of the World Baseball Classic became apparent on Saturday night. World Baseball Classic, Inc., the company created by Major League Baseball and the Players Association to run the tournament, needs the players more than the players need the tournament. So after watching a brawl that saw three brushback pitches, fists flying and players thrown to the ground, no real punishments were levied. [...] Continue Reading »
The U.S. can breathe a sigh of relief.
It hasn't qualified for the second round or anything like that yet, but by beating Italy 6-2 Saturday at the World Baseball Classic, Team USA avoided embarrassment. When this is all done, they can ask their big league teammates from Venezuela how an 0-2 start feels. The U.S. win also gave mathematicians everywhere a respite. Sunday's Canada-USA game has the simplest of formulas to determine who advances–whoever wins moves on to the second round in Miami.
"It was nice to know if we won tonight's game we control our destiny. This way if you win it you earn it and if you don't, you don't," U.S. manager Joe Torre said. "At least with Canada winning today was huge for me. We don't have to be checking numbers or anything like that."
Coming off of a 5-2 loss to Mexico on Friday night, Team USA faced plenty of questions about what had gone wrong. Even without Justin Verlander, David Price and others, a team that features multiple all-stars and solid big league veterans at every position was knocked off by a Mexico team that had multiple minor leaguers in the starting lineup.
Losing to Italy, the surprise story of Pool D, would have been much worse.
The biggest moment of Italy's day came before they ever left the hotel. The 40 or so team members gathered in a large hotel room to watch the Canada-Mexico game. When Canada pulled away for a 10-3 win, Italy's spot in the second round was guaranteed.
Knowing that it had already qualified, Italy spelled some of its starters from the first two games and substituted liberally to ensure that everyone on the team got some World Baseball Classic experience. Italy played 23 of its 28 players on Saturday. Italy heads to Miami knowing that everyone on the team now can say they played in an World Baseball Classic game.
Even with all of that, Italy made life nerve-wracking for a while. Italy actually jumped out to a 2-0 lead on starter Ryan Vogelsong with runs in the first and second.
The U.S.'s hitting drought continued until the fourth when Joe Mauer doubled in Ryan Braun. But the game turned in the fifth. Brandon Phillips singled in a run to tie it 2-2. A Joe Mauer walk loaded the bases to bring David Wright to the plate.
If you're looking for a player who epitomizes the big league version of Team USA, Wright battles Jimmy Rollins for the title. He's vocal of his love of playing for Team USA and he was clearly upset by Friday's loss. Here he had a chance to provide the big hit the U.S. failed time after time on Friday night.
"Bo (hitting coach Larry Bowa) was begging for a soft single. I didn't say it but I was hoping for more," Torre said.
Wright crushed a Matt Torra pitch into the left field seats. Wright gave a skip as he watched the ball fly.
"You talk about being able to exhale, that was huge," Torre said.
"I enjoy this tournament. I think it's a great tournament," Wright said. "When you put that U.S.A. jersey on you get a bullseye on your back so it's a great atmosphere every time out. We want to represent the country well . . . I'm glad I could be a part of it."
Nearly as importantly for the U.S. as Wright's grand slam was the work of the bullpen. Ross Detwiler finished the game with four scoreless innings of relief for his first save at any level. Since only he and Jeremy Affleldt had to pitch in relief of Vogelsong, manager Joe Torre will have nearly his entire bullpen ready for Sunday's must-win game.
"This was our plan. We were going to use Detwiler to piggy back. I love the way he pitched," Torre said. "He was great. We were hoping for this result, obviously. Of course Affeldt did a great job of gluing both sides together."
Canada will send Pirates righthanded prospect Jameson Taillon to the mound against lefthander Derek Holland. Taillon has little experience above Class A, but he also has better stuff than almost any pitcher the U.S. has yet faced in this tournament.
11 p.m. ET: Updated with official MLB quote:
Team China entered the 2013 World Baseball Classic with a simple goal: don't finish last.
It wasn't about embarrassment. China knew that beating Taiwan in the 2009 World Baseball Classic ensured them a spot in the 2013 World Baseball Classic. With no currently active pro league in the country, a spot in the 2017 World Baseball Classic that would come with a third-place finish would do much to ensure that baseball in China would continue to grow over the next four years.
China achieved their goal. It took its lumps against Japan and Cuba in its first two WBC games to save its best pitchers to face Brazil. It worked as China beat Brazil 5-2. With relegation avoided, the Chinese players had tears streaming from their eyes as they ran onto the field. Part of the celebration Italy gave for its 2-0 start was the knowledge that it ensured Italy would be part of the 2017 WBC.
"Regardless of tomorrow that's a huge win for Baseball Canada," Canadian catcher Chris Robinson said as he explained that it meant Canada would avoid the shame of going through the qualifier like it did to get back into the 2013 World Baseball Classic.
They all may have celebrated a little too early. Even though players and coaches from multiple teams believe that the same rules that determined automatic qualifying for the 2013 tournament will apply to 2017, an MLB spokesman said on Saturday night that it wasn't the case. According to MLB the methods to determine who qualifies for the 2017 World Baseball Classic have not yet been determined so these games have no bearing on WBC qualification. That does not mean that they cannot be used as criteria retroactively.
"We have made adjustments to the WBC after each of the first two tournaments were completed. This is the first tournament where we had qualifiers and there may be changes made after evaluation," MLB spokesman Pat Courtney said. "It has yet to be determined and will be as we continue to make this tournament better."
Cynically, one cannot help but note that the U.S. has not yet ensured that they will not be relegated under the old qualifying rules. One also can't help but note that the headline on the China-Brazil game story at MLB.com says "Chang Helps China Stun Brazil: Earns '17 Berth."
One of the most talented teams in the World Baseball Classic won't be making it to the second round.
Venezuela, which has a lineup brimming with star players, lost 6-2 today to Puerto Rico, dropping the Venezuelans to 0-2 and eliminating their chance to advance to the second round of the WBC. Puerto Rico improved to 2-0 with victories over Spain and Venezuela, meaning Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic will advance from Pool C to the second round in Miami. Italy has already qualified for Miami from Pool D in Phoenix.
Venezuela took a 2-0 lead after the third inning, when Omar Infante hit a one-out double then scored the first run of the game on a single to left field by Marco Scutaro, who advanced to second on the throw home. Scutaro scored the second run of the game on a two-out double down the right field line by Pablo Sandoval.
Puerto Rico made it 2-2 in the fourth when Mike Aviles hit a two-out, bases-loaded single to center field to score Irving Falu and Alex Rios. The Puerto Ricans took a 3-2 lead in the fifth when Angel Pagan hit a two-out single to center field to score Martin Maldonado from second base.
Puerto Rico held a one-run edge until the eighth inning when it pulled away from Venezuela with a three-run inning. Puerto Rico loaded the bases when its first three hitters—Rios (hit by pitch), Carlos Beltran (single) and Yadier Molina (single)—reached safely. Aviles, the next batter, made it 4-2 with a sacrifice fly that scored Rios and moved Beltran over to third. After Carlos Rivera struck out looking for the second out of the inning, Venezuela summoned Francisco Rodriguez from the bullpen. Rodriguez couldn't retire Luis Figueroa, who doubled to right field to score Beltran and Molina, making it 6-2 Puerto Rico.
In the bottom of the ninth, after Carlos Gonzalez led off the inning with a groundout, Salvador Perez and Martin Prado hit back-to-back doubles to make it 6-3, but Fernando Cabrera struck out Miguel Montero and got Infante to pop out to end the game.
Venezuela plays 0-2 Spain tomorrow at 12:30 p.m. E.T.
Canada still has a chance to advance to the second round of the World Baseball Classic. Mexico now looks likely to be relegated to the 2017 World Baseball Classic qualifier. But as the crowd streamed out of Chase Field on Saturday night, no one was talking about WBC ramifications.
Canada’s 10-3 win over Mexico will be remembered for the fight.
In the ninth inning of Canada’s easy win over Mexico, the World Baseball Classic’s run differential rule may have died a little lamented death. Because the tiebreakers lead to an incentive to run up the score, there are times when it leads players to do things that would normally appear to be outside of the understanding of “how the game is played.”
No sport has more unwritten rules than baseball. If this was a normal Saturday game at Chase Field, what Chris Robinson did would have been universally decried as being bush league.
Already leading by six runs heading into the top of the ninth, the Canadian catcher dropped down a bunt that surprised everyone in the Mexico infield. It could be viewed as running up the score on a team that was already just waiting for the final outs to be recorded.
But this is the World Baseball Classic, where run differential can be the difference between advancing and going home. Robinson knew that. So did everyone on Team Mexico, at least in the abstract. That didn’t mean they were real happy to see this done to them. And as third baseman Luis Cruz stewed after being showed up by a catcher dropping down a bunt in front of him, he wasn’t working out in his head what another run allowed would do to Mexico’s Total Baseball Quotient.
As he scooped up the ball after the bunt, Cruz turned to pitcher Arnold Leon and pointed to his ribs. [...] Continue Reading »
Robinson Cano had three hits, Carlos Santana homered and Nelson Cruz drove in two runs for the Dominican Republic in a 6-3 victory to improve to 2-0 in the Pool C of the World Baseball Classic.
The Dominicans struck early. In the second inning, Cruz singled home Edwin Encarnacion, then took second when Spain center fielder Engel Beltre (who was born and signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2006) threw home. Cruz scored two batters later when Ricardo Nanita singled to right field to make it 2-0.
Jose Reyes led off the third inning with a walk, then scored on Cano's double to left field to make it 3-0. With the bases loaded following an intentional walk to Encarnacion and a walk to Hanley Ramirez, Cano scored on a single to left field by Cruz. The Dominican Republic made it 5-0 when Santana grounded out to the pitcher, allowing Encarncion to score.
Dominican starter Sam Deduno pitched well, striking out five in four shutout innings, but Spain did get to the Dominican bullpen late in the game. Spain made it 5-1 in the seventh, when Salomon Manriquez drew a leadoff walk, took second on a wild pitch, then scored when Beltre laid down a bunt toward second base that Cano mishandled, allowing Manriquez to score. The Dominican Republic got that run back in the top of the eighth, when Santana hit a solo homer to right field to make it 6-1. Spain rallied for two runs in the bottom of the ninth to make it 6-3, but Fernando Rodney retired Rafael Alvarez with the bases loaded to end the game.
Spain, which fell to 0-2, will face Venezuela tomorrow afternoon, though by that point they could be already eliminated if Puerto Rico beats Venezuela tonight. The Dominican Republic faces Puerto Rico tomorrow night.
The matchup of the teams that lost their Pool 1 openers should have featured two desperate teams, teams that knew moving on to San Francisco was a near impossibility with one more loss.
Cuba played with that urgency, but Taiwan could not match that intensity Saturday in Tokyo. The Cubans took an early lead and finished off Taiwan with an eight-run sixth inning, earning a 14-0 victory in a game called after 6 1/2 innings by the mercy rule. Cuba plays the loser of the Netherlands-Japan game for a spot in the semifinals, while Taiwan is eliminated. [...] Continue Reading »
PHOENIX–Just when you thought you'd seen everything . . .
Two days and three games into Pool D play in the World Baseball Classic, there's a mad scramble for the second and final spot out of the pool into the second round, after Mexico defeated the United States 5-2 at Chase Field Friday night before a crowd of 44,256. Adrian Gonzalez hit a home run and had three RBIs to lead Mexico to the win.
So heading into the weekend, the United States, Canada and Mexico all know that one more loss eliminates them. Meanwhile Italy–yes noted baseball power Italy–is in the driver's seat. Sitting at 2-0, with a 10-run win over Canada and a one-run win over Mexico, Italy knows that of the many things that can happen on Saturday and Sunday, few would keep them from traveling to the second round in Miami.
In comparing surprises, the Team USA's loss to Mexico doesn't equal the shock of Italy's 2-0 start. Yes, with a lineup of major league all-stars (aside from the many notable absences) the U.S. is one of the favorites of this year's World Baseball Classic. But it's also just as clear that when it comes to the WBC, the U.S. is still searching for a winning formula. The loss dropped the U.S. to 7-8 all-time in the tournament. [...] Continue Reading »
PHOENIX–Because it is one of the signature initiatives of his time as commissioner, it's not surprising that Bud Selig is bullish on the World Baseball Classic.
But in an impromptu press conference during Friday night's Mexico-U.S. game, Selig explained further what he hopes the WBC will bring to baseball. In his mind, it's a step toward an eventual "true World Series."
It may seem incongruous that Major League Baseball plays the World Series, when Japan has won the first two World Baseball Classics and the U.S. didn't win either of the last two Olympic gold medals. In Selig's mind, eventually the question of which team is the best in the world will be determined on the field.
"What is the final goal long after I'm gone? The thought of having a real world series and the interest in the world I can't even imagine," Selig said. "Yes, it has economic potential that is huge, but from a sociological standpoint that is greater."
Selig elaborated, "Someday you get the United States vs. Japan as an example." [...] Continue Reading »
Host Puerto Rico got three runs in the bottom of the first inning and held off several Spanish rallies to beat Spain 3-0 Friday in San Juan, P.R.
Pitchers Carlos Alvarado, who pitches in Japan's NPB, and Hiram Burgos (Brewers) held Spain in check. Alvarado, the 35-year-old starter, gave up one hit and had four strikeouts while walking only one. Burgos gave up four hits and a walk, wriggling out of a pair of jams, before Xavier Cedeno (Astros) got the final out for the save. [...] Continue Reading »
The underdogs are no longer just a nice story.
When Italy beat Mexico by a run on Thursday, it could be written off as an enjoyable moment. A team of underdogs proved once again that on any given day in baseball anything can happen.
But it’s much tougher to explain what happened on Friday. [...] Continue Reading »
Even if you’re blessed with a great fastball, pitching is a frightening experience.
More than almost any other position in a team sport, you’re on your own. Make good pitches and you look like a hero. But when a pitcher leaves a pitch over the plate and it gets launched into the seats, all fingers point at the guy on the mound.
It takes guts to go out and pitch in any situation, but for the pitchers of Team Italy, it takes just a little bit more. It’s one thing to be the alpha male when you can rear back and throw a fastball by anyone. It’s another to control a game where you’re throwing changeup after changeup against hitters who are comfortable digging in.
Many of Italy’s pitchers lack a quality fastball. They don’t lack courage. [...] Continue Reading »
Trailing by two runs through seven innings, Japan rallied to tie Taiwan in the eighth, scored again with two outs to knot the game again in the ninth, then won it in the 10th. While Taiwan put two runners on, Japan held on for a 4-3 victory in the first game of Pool 1 in the second round of the World Baseball Classic.
The victory puts Japan in the same position as the Netherlands at 1-0 in the pool, with Cuba and Taiwan at 0-1. The two best records in the pool advance to San Francisco for the WBC semifinals. [...] Continue Reading »
With J.J. Cooper in Arizona and John Manuel back in Durham, we talked about the crazy 24 hours of World Baseball Classic action.
Orioles prospect Jonathan Schoop doubled and hit a towering three-run home run—his second homer in four games—to lead the Netherlands to a 6-2 World Baseball Classic victory over Cuba in the first game of Pool 1, the second round of WBC play.
The Dutch advanced to the second round in 2009, when Schoop's older brother Sharlon was on the team, but were seen as the Cinderella club that year, with two stunning defeats of the Dominican Republic. This time around, the Netherlands are more of a known commodity, especially to Cuba, which lost to the Netherlands in the 2011 World Cup in Panama.
The Dutch won gold then and many veterans of that team have helped this WBC club to a 3-1 start in the 2013 Classic. Schoop played in Panama and was not fazed by Cuban pitching in a game that began Friday afternoon in Tokyo. [...] Continue Reading »
The Dominican Republic took an early 5-0 lead and overcame an early rain delay that knocked out starter Edinson Volquez to defeat Venezuela 9-3 Thursday in the World Baseball Classic Opener for both teams.
The Dominican took control of Pool C with three runs in the first, chasing Anibal Sanchez (Tigers) after only one out, and two more in the second. Big league stars powered the Dominican lineup all night, keyed by shortstop Jose Reyes (Blue Jays), who had four hits and scored twice.
Second baseman Robinson Cano (Yankees) started the scoring with a two-run double in the first and went 3-for-5 with three RBIs, while outfielders Nelson Cruz (Rangers) and Alejandro De Aza (White Sox) contributed two RBIs apiece. [...] Continue Reading »
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.—With the swing of the bat and a bobble, Italy turned Pool D upside down.
With one out in the ninth, runners on first and third, and Italy trailing by a run, first baseman Anthony Rizzo came to the plate against Mexico closer Sergio Romo. He hit a line drive that first landed in and then fell out of left fielder Edgar Gonzalez's glove near the left-field wall. As Gonzalez scurried to scoop up his bobble, Stefano Desimoni and Chris Denorfia raced home to give Italy a 6-5 lead. Italy reliever Jason Grilli then dodged a bases loaded jam in the bottom of the ninth to secure Italy's stunning victory in the World Baseball Classic opener for both teams.
The win continues an impressive pattern, as the Italians have won at least one game in each of their three WBC appearances. More important for this tournament, however, it completely opens up the four-team pool that also includes Canada and the United States. The teams play a round robin schedule, and the top two teams advance to the second round. [...] Continue Reading »
What was already an extremely lefthanded Canadian lineup lost its only significant righthanded power threat as Brett Lawrie had to drop out of the World Baseball Classic because of a rib injury.
The Blue Jays third baseman sustained the injury early in Wednesday's exhibition game against the Reds. He left the game in the fourth inning.
"We got the word this morning that the doctors feel that it is about on his 10th rib with maybe—it could be an oblique, it—he doesn't think it's very severe," Team Canada manager Ernie Whitt said. "But any type of injury like that, if you continue to play you could aggravate it and make it worse. And that's the last thing in the world we want to do. It's a young man that loves playing the game. He desperately wanted to play in this tournament, but for his career the right decision was made that we're going to withdraw him and let him go get some treatments and hopefully get that taken care of before Opening Day with the Jays." [...] Continue Reading »
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