Despite a streaky offense Team USA baseball moves on in World Baseball Classic….barely.
In game one on Friday March 8th against Team Mexico, the Americans failed to live up to their reputation as one of the best offensive line-ups in the world baseball classic. And R.A. Dickey failed to find his knuckle ball. The 2012 NL Cy Young Award winner gave up 4 Earned Runs in 4 innings. Two of those runs came off the bat of Adrian Gonzales who hit a two-run homer in the third inning. Team Mexico didn’t need much more in route to a surprise 5-2 victory at Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona.
After the game one loss, Game 2 on Saturday became a must win for Team USA. Their opponent Team Italy already qualified for the 2nd round of the World Baseball Classic by destroying Team Canada a night earlier. Team Italy led until the fifth inning when David Wright (New York Mets) hit a Grand Slam off Team Italy’s Matt Torra (Tampa Bay Rays) in the fifth inning. Ross Detwiller (Washington Nationals) then shut the door with 4 scoreless innings and the save. This gave Team Italy their first loss of the tournament and kept the Americans alive going into play on Sunday.
One more obstacle remained on Sunday March 10th when the Americans faced Team Canada. This was an elimination game for both teams as they were tied at 1-1 in Pool D play. Once again Team USA had trouble getting the bats going until late in the game. In the eighth inning, the Baltimore Orioles Adam Jones lined a two run double to give Team USA the lead. The Kansas City Royal’s Eric Hosmer tacked on a ninth inning 3 run homer to blow the game open .With that Team USA advances to the second round in Miami, Florida with a 2-1 WBC record. They will play in pool 2 with teams including tournament favorite Domician Republic. Puerto Rico and Italy round out Pool 2 which could be the toughest road to the championship round. The brain trust of Joe Torre and Larry Bowa must figure out how to get the Americans to start on time. Their opponents in the second round have more major league pitching depth and late inning heroics will be a bit harder to pull off.
Second round play in the World Baseball Classic is double elimination so there is margin for error but not much. You can expect the Domican Republic to continue to dominate opponents and build on their 3-0 World Baseball Classic record. Team USA’s first game is against Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is 2-1 with there only loss coming against Dominicana. The Puerto Rican roster is deep with Major Leaguers like Carlos Beltran, Alex Rios and Yadier Molina. If Team USA can start quickly then they will have a solid chance of winning and moving on in the winners bracket of Pool 2. That winners bracket game should be against World Baseball Classic tournament favorite Dominican Republic. Team USA takes the field for game 1 in Miami Florida on March 12th. You can catch the game on MLB Network @ 8:00pm.