My day four in Arizona was a lot warmer than I expected, mainly because I was preparing for Chase Field’s roof to be closed (like it was for Friday’s game). It was really cold inside, so I wore jeans and had a jacket. Instead when I walked in, the sun was brightly shining in. I took relief in that I was not the only one prepared for the cold.
It was the final game of Pool D of the World Baseball Classic, a game between the USA and Canada. A win for each meant they would move on to the second round with Italy. A loss meant back to spring training.
Canada jumped on US starter Derek Holland in the first inning behind the two hot bats of Justin Morneau and Michael Saunders. Morneau doubled and Saunders hit a two-run home run. Chris Robinson and Adam Loewen followed with hits to put runners at second and third base with one out. However, Holland rebounded and escaped further damage. He actually did not allow another hit over his final three innings of work.
Meanwhile, the US got to Canada starter Jameson Taillon (who mainly pitched in High-A last year) in the fourth. With runners on first and second base and nobody out, Ben Zobrist laid a perfect bunt. Hustling down the line forced Canada third baseman Taylor Green to throw the ball away. One run scored and the other scored via Adam Jones’ sac fly to tie the game at 2-2.
In the sixth, with Glenn Perkins on the mound (I still have no idea why Jeremy Affeldt wasn’t in the game), Joey Votto walked to lead off the inning (which is the only positive thing he did in the three games) and came around to score on Loewen’s single. Perkins rebounded to strike out Pete Orr to end the threat with two runners on base.
The USA offense broke out in a big way over the game’s final two innings. It started with Jimmy Anderson on the mound (who was awful in his two appearances). After the first two batters reached via a hit and walk, he got Zobrist to pop up yet another sac bunt. But Jones made him pay with a two-run double. With two outs, Shane Victorino delivered an RBI single to give the US a 5-3 lead.
Canada came right back against Arizona Diamondbacks reliever David Hernandez in the eighth (still no Affeldt sighting). Votto singled to lead off the inning and two batters later, Saunders singled. That brought up Robinson, who singled to load the bases. Loewen cut the deficit to 5-4 with a ground out. That ended Hernandez’ day and manager Joe Torre brought in right-hander Steve Cishek, who intentionally walked the first batter he faced. Uh, why not have Hernandez do that?
I didn’t mind the intentional walk to Orr to load the bases, mainly because Cale Iorg was batting behind him. He had looked bad at the plate over the three games and he is pretty much a prospect that never figured out how to hit with a wood bat. Canada countered with pinch-hitter Tim Smith (a former KC Royals Minot leaguer). I would have went with Jimmy VanOstrand, who has a better bat. Smith grounded out to second base to end the threat (though he hustled down the line).
The US bats battered Scott Mathieson (which was hard to watch) and John Axford in the ninth to take a 9-4 lead. Eric Hosmer had the big blow, a bases clearing double with two outs. He was really pumped at second base, as was reliever Heath Bell with his American flag in the dugout. However, the rest of the team didn’t seem all that excited. Why weren’t they coming out to greet the three runners who scored? Or pointing at Hosmer to tell his great job?
Craig Kimbrel came in in the ninth and picked up two strikeouts, the best one getting Votto looking to end the game. Kimbrel did throw an off speed pitch.
I was disappointed in the US’ play. They rarely hustled (outside of Zobrist and Victorino) and no one but those two signed autographs before the game (something fans throughout the ballpark were complaining about). They also showed zero emotion (except for Bell, Kimbrel on the strikeout, and the three outfielders jumping into each other in center field). I know I’m an American, but it is going to be tough to root for them over the exciting Italians and the always energetic Dominicans and Puerto Ricans in Pool C.
It was also hard to watch Tyson Gillies struggle so much at the plate. He didn’t pick up a hit (though he did hit the ball hard on Sunday). I still don’t know why Canada had Jay Johnson on the roster for this WBC and the qualifying round. He didn’t pitch and people in his family had signs that said “Put Johnson in Coach. He came to play”. Johnson did show off his fighting skills in Saturday’s brawl against Mexico.
At night, we headed to Scottsdale for dinner at Blue Moose and headed further down the road for some yummy cupcakes at Sprinkles. So another day with great food.