Happy Tuesday everyone! Well, by the time you read this, it will be Wednesday, but it’s still Tuesday out here in sunny California. I’m here to recap Pool D of the World Baseball Classic, which has sent Team USA & Team Italy to Round 2 being played in Miami.
Friday night’s game was tough to watch, with Team USA going down to Team Mexico, 5-2. R.A. Dickey had a rough outing, allowing four runs and six hits over four innings. He couldn’t seem to get his knuckleball going and Team Mexico made him pay. The hero for Team Mexico was Adrian Gonzalez of the Dodgers with his gigantic two-run homer to center field in the 3rd inning. That loss put Team USA in a pickle as the math for them to advance (if they were to lose another game) became much more complicated.
Game two against Italy on Saturday was, for about five innings, just as painful to watch as the first game. Down to Italy in the fifth inning, Team USA, full of All-Stars, MVPs and Gold Glove winners, was losing to a team with players whose names I’m can’t pronounce (Lorenzo Avagnina, anyone?). Luckily, that night, Team USA had a player named David Wright. He is usually known as the All-Star 3rd baseman for the New York Mets, but on Saturday night he was the hero. His grand slam, with two outs and an almost Happy Gilmore-like swing, gave Team USA a lead it wouldn’t relinquish. With the win, Team USA was able to control their own fate going into Sunday rather than relying on scenarios and numbers.
Sunday’s game three against Canada sent Team USA up to bat against the #2 pick in the 2010 draft, Jameson Taillon, as well as proven MLB veterans Joey Votto, Michael Saunders, and Justin Morneau. Like a bad dream, the majority of the game was eerily similar to the first two games for one huge reason, Team USA couldn’t find the lead if it bonked them on the head.
The team was down to its final five outs when none other than Adam Jones smashed a two-run double into left-center field that FINALLY put Team USA on top, 4-3. Eric Hosmer, an up and comer who is probably not better known because he plays in Kansas City, put the game away for good with a massive three-run double in the ninth inning. That win over Canada sent Team USA into Round 2, where they beat a loaded team from Puerto Rico in their first game behind five scoreless innings from starter Gio Gonzalez.
I can’t predict how the rest of the WBC is going to shake out. Team USA obviously has yet to go up against some of the big gun teams like Japan and the Dominican Republic, but they are playing with heart and continuing to build confidence. Because of the elimination of baseball from the Olympics slate, this World Baseball Classic is the only chance that players have to put on the uniform of their country (or the country of their relatives). I’ve really only been able to see highlights (blame the just out of college budget and not being able to get MLB Network) but what is so apparent is the passion with which all the teams are playing. For many of the players, this is as “big time” as their careers will get, so they’re taking advantage of it. I’ll be back to recap round two and hopefully be previewing Team USA’s trip to the championship round!