You can take what you thought about Pool B, which was supposed to be the USA victory tour, and throw all of that into a cocked hat. (WBC cocked hats are for sale for $29.95. They don't come sized though.)
Canada 8, United States 6
Play started with the US, fresh off a 2-0 shutout over Mexico, taking on Canada, which trailed South Africa in the ninth inning Tuesday before winning 11-8. The US was sending out Dontrelle Willis, while Canada was countering with Adam Loewen. Yes, that Adam Loewen.
But the game went bad right from the outset for the US, when Stubby Clapp tripled two batters into the game. Jason Bay followed with a walk and Clapp came home on a groundout by Justin Morneau. The US threatened in the bottom of the first, loading the bases with one out for Chipper Jones, but Loewen induced a double play to get out the jam.
Then the Canadians kept up the pressure, scoring again in the second on back-to-back triples by Aaron Guiel and Adam Stern. And in the third, the Canadians added three more runs on an RBI single by Pete LaForest and a 2-run RBI by Stern off of Al Leiter. Matt Stairs singled in two more in the fourth and Stern hit an inside-the-park home run to left off of Gary Majewski to make it 8-0 Canada.
The US mounted a comeback in the bottom half of the inning, scoring six times off of Chris Begg and Eric Cyr, capped off by a grand slam from Jason Varitek and it looked like the US was going to put their socialized medicine-loving neighbors to the north in their place.
But just as quickly as the US offense appeared, it disappeared again. Cyr didn't allow a hit after Varitek's homer and Scott Mathieson and Steve Green (aka, the guy put on the disabled list by the Angels in 2002 to make Francisco Rodriguez eligible for the playoffs) shut down the US. Utley thought he had hit a 3-run homer in the 8th, but Stern was able to track down the drive in the deepest part of Chase Field and Canada was a surprising 2-0 and the US was a shocking 1-1.
One night after scaring the bejeezus (WBC bejeezus is available through MLB.com for $17.50) out of Canada, South Africa gave Mexico little trouble. Mexico ran out to a 5-0 lead after three innings, then saw South Africa score three times in the fourth, but Mexico bounced back with three runs in the fifth and single runs in the sixth and seventh, including a home run by Jorge Cantu.
After allowing eight wild pitches and a passed ball, South Africa moved catcher Willem Kemp to DH and used 17-year old Kyle Botha at catcher. It must have helped as South Africa had just one wild pitch.
Mexico's win sets up a showdown Thursday for one of the spots in Pool B. The winner of the Mexico-Canada game in Phoenix gets a spot in the second round. Canada can advance with a loss if it allows just one or two runs in the game (for example a 2-1 or 1-0 loss). If Canada loses and allows Mexico scores three or more runs then Canada will have to hope that South Africa beats the US Friday in Scottsdale.
Cuba made its WBC debut in San Juan and second baseman Yulieski Gourriel was the star, going 3 for 4 with a home run and making a sensational play in the field. He also had four RBI.
The seesaw affair turned in Panama's favor when Ruben Rivera blasted a 3-run homer off of Vichoandry Odelin in the sixth to put Panama up 4-2. But Cuba tied it up in the seventh on an RBI single from Eduardo Paret and a sacrifice fly from Gourriel.
Gourriel appeared to make Cuba the winner with a 2-run homer in the top of the ninth off of Manny Acosta. But Cuba handed the game back to Panama in the bottom of the ninth. Yadier Pedroso allowed the first two Panamanians to reach on a walk and a single and Cuba brought in Yuneski Maya to relieve. Orlando Miller tried to bunt the runners over, but Cuba misplayed it and everybody was safe. Johnny Herrera struck out, but Olmedo Saenz followed with a bloop single to make it 6-5. Carlos Lee then struck out, but Maya hit Earl Agnoly with a pitch (there were six of them in the game and Cuba's Michel Enriquez got plunked three times) to tie it up. Rivera popped up to end the threat.
Cuba won it in the 11th when Enriquez was hit by a pitch with two outs and Gourriel walked. Cuba brought in a pinch hitter, Yoandy Gorlobo, who singled to center to score Enriquez. Frederich Cepeda singled in Gourriel for an insurance run and Yadel Marti saved it for Cuba in the bottom of the 11th.
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The Dutch made their WBC debut in San Juan against Puerto Rico and were in a 3-3 tie in the fifth. But Puerto Rico plated two in the top of the sixth on a sacrifice fly by Jose Valentin and a squeeze bunt by Alex Cora.
In the seventh, the game got testy. Ivan Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran homered and the next batter, Javy Lopez, was hit by a pitch. That prompted umpire Kevin Causey to warn both teams, but soon after Dutch manager Robert Eenhorn was ejected for arguing balls and strikes. Orlando Roman, Puerto Rico's third pitcher, was credited with the win. Carlos Delgado sat out his second straight game with a sore left elbow
So the Boricuas sit atop Pool C with a 2-0 record and a game with Cuba left on Friday. If Cuba beats the Netherlands Thursday, both Puerto Rico and Cuba would be through to the second round. If the Dutch upset the Cubans, then Panama would still have a chance to advance if they can beat the Dutch Friday and Puerto Rico would beat Cuba and set up a three-way tiebreaker.
Venezuela 6, Italy 0
One day after Italy won a mercy rule game over Australia, the Italians ran into some nasty pitching from Venezuela's Freddy Garcia, Carlos Rodriguez, Rafael Betancourt, and Francisco Rodriguez. The four pitchers held Italy to two hits and struck out 12. Miguel Cabrera hit his second homer of the series to help the Venezuelans even their record at 1-1, the same as Italy.
Italy faces the Dominican Republic Thursday and Venezuela will face woeful Australia. Both Venezuela and the D.R. will advance to the second round with wins and if either team lost, it would be an upset of major proportions.