Team USA Bounces Back, Mercy Rules Canada 12-1

Image credit: Mike Trout (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

PHOENIX—After two uninspiring showings to start the World Baseball Classic, Team USA finally resembled the juggernaut it was supposed to be.

Mike Trout hit his first WBC homer to cap a nine-run first inning, Trea Turner added another homer and Team USA cruised to a 12-1 rout of Canada in seven innings on Monday night. The 12 runs were Team USA’s most in a game since 2009. It was just the second time Team USA has mercy-ruled an opponent in the WBC.

“It kind of went perfect,” Team USA manager Mark DeRosa said. “Nine runs in the first. Everyone was relaxed. Everyone was a part of it.”

Team USA’s offensive outburst represented a stark turnaround from its performance the first two nights. Its star-studded lineup failed to maintain any semblance of a consistent offensive threat against a Great Britain staff of journeymen and minor leaguers in a sluggish 6-2 victory to open the tournament. The lineup was shut down entirely by Mexico on Sunday, managing only three hits and one run through the first six innings before adding runs in garbage time of an 11-5 loss.

For a team with 13 all-star position players on the roster, it was a pitiful—and humbling—showing.

“Obviously tough loss last night … I think it woke us up a little bit,” Trout said. “The message for us was go out there and bang, be ourselves.

“I think the first couple of games we were just trying to feel ourselves. But today we came in just with a mindset of ‘We’re going to dominate.’ And you put that pressure on a group, that’s what’s going to happen.”

Team USA’s lineup finally clicked in a big way against Canada. Nolan Arenado hit a two-run double, J.T. Realmuto had a two-run single, Cedric Mullins had an RBI triple and Trout hit a three-run homer in the first inning alone to stake Team USA to a commanding 9-0 lead. Tim Anderson added an RBI triple and Turner homered in the second to give Team USA a 12-1 lead less than an hour into the game.

From there it was only a matter of when, not if, the mercy rule would be invoked.

“Being in the lineup with so many dudes, you ain’t really got to do too much,” Anderson said. “The whole goal is really to just pass the stick, and I think you’ve seen it out of the gate tonight. And we just kept pouring it on them.”

Canada made the strategic decision to save its best pitchers for its upcoming games against Colombia and Mexico, opponents it is more likely to beat. Canada manager Ernie Whitt made the judgement that doing so puts Canada in the best position to finish 3-1 in the pool and advance to the quarterfinals for the first time.

That meant Canada sent Mitch Bratt, a 19-year-old lefthander who has never pitched above Low-A, to start against a Team USA lineup with nine all-stars and three MVP winners. Team USA predictably overwhelmed the young teenager, roughing him up for six runs in one-third of an inning. Bratt surrendered three hits, walked three batters and allowed six of the seven batters he faced to reach base, with the only out he recorded a sacrifice fly by Kyle Tucker.

Team USA sent 12 men to the plate in the first inning against Bratt and reliever R.J. Freure, who the Braves cut from their High-A affiliate last year.

“We were definitely trying to save some arms, there’s no question,” Whitt said. “It’s tough to bounce back from a nine spot in the first inning. And let me just put it this way. No one likes to get beat. All right? I’m ticked off that we got beat. But we got beat by a pretty good team over there.

“So I’m not worried about that. I keep telling myself, our goal was to advance. We can advance with not worrying about the run differential if we win the next two games.”

Lance Lynn pitched five sharp innings with two hits and one run allowed, no walks and six strikeouts to pick up the win for Team USA. The outing was particularly critical after Team USA used eight pitchers against Mexico the previous night.

“Especially after losing last night, you knew you had to come out with some energy,” Lynn said. “And I knew if I had to do it early on and let the kids get back in the dugout with the ability to take the lead, we had a good chance. They put some runs up real quick, and we were able to go after that.”

Team USA is 2-1 in Pool C and will advance to the quarterfinals with a win over Colombia on Wednesday. Canada is 1-1 and can advance with wins over Colombia on Tuesday and Mexico on Wednesday.

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