By Larry Millson
TORONTO–After squeaking past Team Canada by one run on Saturday, Team USA used an eight-run sixth inning to remove the suspense from Sunday`s game against Team Venezuela on the way to a 15-6 victory.
Team USA will move to the second round of the World Baseball Classic in Miami while Venezuela will play the winner of Monday‘s game between Canada and Italy on Tuesday.
“We all know that maybe the bullpen is the big question mark with us and it looked like a disaster,” Team Venezuela’s manager Luis Sojo said. “That’s the reality. I think the best thing to do so to motivate them for the next game….we’ll talk to them directly because this can’t happen again.”
Team USA had 16 hits, 11 against six relievers, and eight walks, seven against the relievers in the Group C game played before a crowd of 13,094 at Rogers Centre.
Team USA manager Davey Johnson talked about his team as “a bunch of great guys.`
“And they’re expressing their talent,“ he said. “So making my job easier.“
Team Venezuela`s bullpen is making Sojo`s job that much more difficult.
“It’s frustrating you know,” Sojo said. “As a manager you have to come out all the time and change pitchers. And these guys they’ve been in this realm before and maybe they’re a bit nervous because these are guys that usually throw strikes, and it’s always Ball 1, Ball 2.
“This can’t happen and I’m really upset. And they should know it, because they know, as professionals, their job is to throw strikes and they weren’t doing their job.”
Before the big inning, Venezuela has a 3-2 lead built against Team USA starter Roy Oswalt who allowed six hits and two walks in 3 2/3 innings.
After Armando Galarraga completed his four-inning stint with two runs on five hits and a walk, Venezuela’s pitching fell apart.
“We know that it wasn`t an easy game but Armando, he dominated,“ Sojo said. “He pitched appropriately.“
Victor Zambrano, who took the loss, got through the fifth with the help of a double play and struck out Kevin Youkilis on a wild pitch to start the sixth. Youkilis reached first base on the play and it unravelled from there.
David Wright followed with a single, Adam Dunn walked to load the bases and Mark DeRosa walked to tie the game.
Carlos Vasquez replaced Zambrano and gave up a three-run double to Chris Iannetta who took third on the throw home and the rout was on.
The next time Youkilis batted in the inning he hit a two-run homer as the 10th of 11 batters in the inning. Matt Lindstrom who relieved Oswalt retired the four batters he faced and earned the win.
“We`ve got guys like Derek Jeter, Chipper Jones, guys that have been around,“ DeRosa said. `They have great game plans. When they go up to hit, they relay that message down to us. And you know that was the thing for us, guys put together professional at-bats all through the line-up.“
Venezuela, down 10-3, opened the bottom of the sixth with three successive hits including Carlos Guillen’s leadoff home run against Brad Ziegler but a double play blocked the chance of a comeback and the inning ended with Team USA leading 10-5.
Adam Dunn and Ryan Braun also homered for Team USA.
“I was a little concerned today about is having enough pitching,“ Johnson said. “It`s a great hitting line-up we were up against tonight.“
Chipper Jones left the game with a strained oblique muscle.