PHOENIX – There was no real explanation for the slow start of Team USA in this World Baseball Classic. The team fell behind in each of its opening two games but manager Mark De Rosa articulated to reporters before game three that his level of concern was nearly zero.
Relying on starter Lance Lynn to eat up innings and telling his talented players to relax and have fun, De Rosa expressed confidence, with a smile, that the true Team USA would emerge.
True to his observations, Lynn cruised in a 1-2-3 first inning and retired the side on 13 pitches. From that point, Team USA responded with a thunderous 9-run, opening frame and defeated Team Canada, 12-1 victory before 29,621 in Chase Field Monday night.
By termination rule, the game went seven innings, and that’s because Team USA was ahead by more than 10 runs after seven innings. By rule, the game ends with one team ahead by at least 10.
The win improved Team USA to 2-1 and a reasonable chance to advance in the tournament. The top two teams in each of the four pools advance to the semi-final round in Miami. Coming into game three, there was no secret what awaited Team USA. A loss clearly put a future in peril and jeopardy.
“Our goal was to go out, dominated and that’s what we did throughout the lineup,” said second baseman Tim Anderson. “Coming out of the gate, we wanted to keep pushing. Our goal was just really to pass the stick.”
If there was one dynamic which characterized the approach, this could have been a sense of urgency. Falling behind to Great Britain and Mexico, Team USA faced the embarrassment of missing the plane to Miami. With Anderson’s approach, their mantra was clearly to attack.
To be fair, Team Canada manager Ernie Whitt started lefty Mitch Bratt, a 19-year-old who pitched last season in the Texas Rangers’ Single-A Down East and went 5-5 in 19 appearances. Wild from the beginning, Bratt, out of Newmarket, Ontario, could not find the plate. At one point in the first inning, he missed on seven consecutive pitches and ended up allowing six of the 9, first-inning runs.
In that frame, walks to Mike Trout and Paul Goldschmidt set the table for a run-producing double, down the left field line, from Nolan Arenado and the rout was on. Trout capped the frame with a three-run blast into the left field bleachers and in the second, Trea Turned followed with a two-run blast.
“The loss (to Mexico) woke us up a little bit,” said Trout. “It did not turn out the way we wanted (against Mexico). From and offensive standpoint, we wanted to go out there and be ourselves.”
Following such a dominating victory, the comfort level and confidence appeared to return. Before game one on Saturday, Mark De Rosa, the manager of Team USA told reporters, his team “was ready.”
The jolt received from the loss to Mexico and the response against Team Canada seems to have energized.
“We’re definitely in control now,” Trout added. “When Great Britain defeated Columbia (Monday afternoon) that helped us out a little bit. We knew after the loss to Mexico that we wanted to go out and see what happens. We have to come out on Wednesday (against Columbia) with the same energy and come out with a win.”
According to De Rosa, Lynn, who went the prescribed limit of 65 pitches in the opening round, shut down Team Canada and gave his teammates room to respond from the loss to Mexico. In his five innings, Lynn, who went 8-7 with the White Sox a year ago, limited Team Canada to two base runners. That included a lead-off homer from Jared Young in the second and a one-out single in the fifth from Abraham Toro.
“What Lynn did for us was huge,” De Rosa said. “That was the story for me. He was able to get to 65 and gave us an opportunity to score early. Again, Lynn was the difference for me.”
Elsewhere … against Canada, De Rosa inserted Anderson in the six-hole. Replacing the left-hitting Jeff McNeil, Anderson started his first game at second base and responded with a 2-for-3 night, a walk, a triple, and scored two runs.
And … De Rosa announced Diamondbacks’ righthander Merrill Kelly will start for Team USA in their Chase Field finale on Wednesday night against Columbia. Kelly told reporters before game three that he believes pitching in his home park has a clear advantage.
“I already know what the mound feels like and already know what the vantage point from the mound and what home plate looks like,” he said. “I’m more comfortable in the dugout, know where I sit, how to get there and it definitely feels more comfortable than rather navigate through a stadium that you might not have never been on the home side.”