Team USA clinched a spot in the third round of the 2009 World Cup the same way it has won seven straight games in the event—with home run power and good starting pitching.
Daniel Descalso (Cardinals) and Buck Coats (Blue Jays) hit solo home runs, and Terry Tiffee (Phillies) had four hits and a pair of RBIs, as the Americans beat Mexico 7-3. Trevor Reckling (Angels) went five solid innings for the victory, and four relievers, chiefly Ehren Wassermann (White Sox) and Nate Field (Marlins), wrapped up with four scoreless innings of relief.
Team USA out-hit Mexico 13-4, but two errors helped lead to a pair of unearned Mexican runs, and Mexico pulled within 5-3 after six innings. Tiffee helped the Americans put things away with an RBI double in the seventh, and he scored the game’s final run on a sacrifice fly by Pedro Alvarez (Pirates).
Lefthander Kasey Kiker (Rangers) will pitch for Team USA on Sunday against Italy. The U.S. also has a game with Australia that was rained out in the second round that has been rescheduled for Monday, the last day of the second round.
In other second-round games Saturday:
• In the italian pool (which the U.S. leads), Australia kept pace with the Americans by beating Japan 5-0 behind Adam Blackley (Red Sox) and Brendan Wise (Tigers), who combined on a six-hitter. Ex-big leaguer Chris Snelling continued his strong World Cup effort with a home run and two RBIs, while Luke Hughes (Twins) had three hits. Taiwan and Canada also continued on their pace to advance to the third round, with Canada crushing Italy 16-7 while Taiwan beat Netherlands Antilles 12-3. Canada rallied from a 6-3 deficit with 13 runs combined in the seventh and eighth innings, as catcher Chris Robinson (Cubs) contributing three hits and five RBIs, and DH Emerson Frostad (Rangers) slamming a grand slam during a seventh-inning rally.
• In the Netherlands, the host country remained unbeaten, as Curt Smith (Cardinals) and Yurendell DeCaster homered in a four-run eighth-inning rally, as part of a 15-hit attack. The Dutch trailed 4-2 before Smith led off the eighth with a homer, and DeCaster later hit a three-run shot for the lead. Reliever Dennis Neuman (Red Sox) pitched the final three innings without yielding a run to pick up the win. He now has a win and two saves in three scoreless appearances, spanning 4.1 innings.
Cuba rebounded from its first loss of the eventh, beating South Korea 5-1 in a loss that crippled South Korea’s third-round hopes. Freddy Alvarez pitched seven strong innings for Cuba, while reliever Jonder Martinez struck out five in two innings to finish up. Puerto Rico maintained its momentum, building on its win against Cuba by beating Venezuela 5-3. The Puerto Ricans clinched a third-round berth as Luis Atilano (Nationals) pitched shutout ball into the seventh, while Miguel Abreu (Orioles) had three hits and three RBIs. Spain beat Great Britain 10-3 for its second victory of the round, as Paco Figueroa (Orioles) hit his first homer and improved to .500 (15-for-30) for the tournament overall.
• Here’s how the third round is shaping up. The eight teams will include the top four teams of each pool, four from the Netherlands, four from Italy. When these teams move to the third round, they will carry over their records from round two against the other three teams from their pool that advanced to round three. Once the teams get to the third round, they will only play teams from the other pool