MIAMI--After Colombia suffered a heartbreaking extra-inning loss to the United States to open its first World Baseball Classic on Friday night, the fight it showed in a well-played contest put the country on the map and opened the door for a 4-1 victory against Canada on Saturday afternoon.
Taking out France, Spain and host Panama in one of four WBC qualifiers last year to earn a spot at Marlins Park, Colombia manager Luis Urueta believes that with his squad's first win of the tournament, the attention it has garnered early is no longer misplaced.
"Yesterday was just to show that we play baseball," Urueta said. "When a mistake was made with Miss Universe [Colombia], and they awarded the crown to the other one, it made her more famous. I think last night the same thing happened to us.
'We also lost and I think we are more famous for that reason. So those are situations that come up in your life. Yesterday was incredible, it was a good game and in the end we lost, but as you say, we showed our quality and we earned the respect of people who know about baseball."
After allowing a two-out, run-scoring single to Braves teammate Freddie Freeman to put Canada on the board in the first, righthander Julio Teheran was perfect for the next 4.1 innings for Colombia. He was followed by Yohan Pino and Dayan Diaz, who wrapped up a combined five-hitter.
Two of Canada's five hits came with two outs in the ninth, bringing Jamie Romak as the potential tying run to the plate in the game's final moments, but Diaz struck out Romak with a 96 mph fastball to end it and all but eliminate Canada from second-round contention.
"We got out of the chute real fast, scored a run and then our bats became silent," Canada manager Ernie Whitt said. "When you have five hits and you only score one run, you’re not going to win a lot of ballgames."
Brothers Donovan and Jhonatan Solano provided the offense for Colombia, combining for four hits, three RBIs, and two runs scored.
Phillies prospect Nick Pivetta got the start for Canada and pitched four innings with five hits and one run allowed.
Canada's main highlight came in the sixth, when 41-year-old former Cy Young award winner Eric Gagne came on in relief with the bases loaded and two outs, facing the kind of pressure situation he hasn't had since he last pitched in the majors in 2008.
After issuing a run-scoring walk, the veteran settled in for 2 1/3 frames, allowing just one hit and striking out two, using a sharp breaking ball and a fastball up to 94 mph.
"I was nervous, I was scared, I was everything you can think of," Gagne said. "The first day of school, it's exactly that. But that's why I'm here. Our veteran guys have been there. I mean, I feel like I'm a closer, and that was a closing situation and I didn't come through.
"So I think I'm glad it was me out there, I'm glad it wasn't one of our young guys. That's what I'm here for, I'm here to teach them, hey everybody's going to fail and I was out there, did everything I could, but just tried to do a little too much. But we're going to learn. Tomorrow we're going to come back and try to have a better day."