USA Baseball's professional team is playing in two tournaments this fall, moving on to the Pan American Games in Lagos de Moreno, Mexico, after its bronze-medal game in the 2011 World Cup was washed out.
Team USA has not won the Pan Ams in baseball since 1967, when former Davidson and Wake Forest coach George Greer was the team's hitting star. Cuba has won the last 10 Pan Ams and beat the U.S. College National team for the gold medal in 2007 in Brazil.
Current Team USA members Jordan Danks (White Sox) and Jordy Mercer (Pirates) were on that club as collegians. However, this year's club—which has added catcher James McCann (Tigers) and outfielder Jimmy Gallagher (White Sox) to replace the injured Travis d'Arnaud (Blue Jays; left thumb surgery) and lefty Royce Ring since the World Cup—got off to a good start, winning its first two Pan Am contests in easy fashion with consecutive mercy-rule victories.
The U.S. beat the Dominican Republic 20-2 on Thursday, pounding 19 hits and four home runs, then beat Panama 11-0 with two more longballs and another stellar performance by lefthander Drew Smyly (Tigers).
Smyly pitched six shutout innings, giving up four hits and one walk while striking out four. He ran his scoreless streak to 17 innings this fall for Team USA, and he's walked 17 while allowing only the one walk.
Outfielder Brett Carroll (Red Sox), one of the team's six players with major league experience, is 7-for-8 in the first two games with seven RBIs and a pair of home runs. Third baseman Tommy Mendonca (Rangers) had six RBIs in the Dominican game, then hit his team-best fourth home run of the fall against Panama as the U.S. beat Eliecer Navarro (Pirates).
The U.S. chased Mario Alvarez (Dodgers) in the win against the Dominican, exacting a small measure of revenge against the lefthander who beat them in the semifinals of the 2010 Pan Am qualifying tournament. Ex-big leaguer Dario Veras gave up the last five runs in a 10-run American eighth inning. Lefty Andy Van Hekken (Astros) continued his fine work with seven innings of six-hit ball, giving up two unearned runs. The 32-year-old has posted a 0.43 ERA in 21 innings this fall.
The U.S. has one more game in pool play, facing host Mexico on Saturday at 8 p.m. Eastern. After a day off, the final four teams play Monday and Tuesday in what appears to be a single-elimination medal round. Other participating countries include Canada, Cuba, host Mexico, Puerto Rico and Venezuela. All but Mexico participated in the World Cup, where Cuba won silver and Canada bronze.