MIAMI -- There was no suspense, no drama, and by the second inning, the final game of Round 1 of the World Baseball Classic at Marlins Park, turned into a mundane spring training game.
Ah, dull never felt so good in the good ol’ USA.
Team USA, after two harrowing days in South Florida, finally were able to exhale Sunday night, manhandling Canada, 8-0, and earning a berth in the second round of the WBC at Petco Park in San Diego.
USA, which needed to beat Canada to avert a tie-breaking scenario, jumped all over former major-league pitcher Ryan Dempster in the first inning, and never looked back, cruising to their most lopsided WBC victory since beating Venezuela, 15-6, in 2009.
It’s just what Team USA needed, after winning 3-2 in 10 innings against Colombia, and blowing a 5-run lead and losing 7-5 Saturday to the Dominican Republic. They now will have two days off to reset their emotions before playing again Wednesday night against the runner-up in Pool D from Mexico.
The United States say they learned a lot about themselves in their three-day excursion to Florida, and believe they are more equipped to handle their emotions in a hostile environment, knowing they will be facing the powerful Dominican Republic at least one more time.
The Dominican Republic will be the prohibitive favorite to win back-to-back titles, winning 11 consecutive WBC games, last losing eight years ago.
“You look at our team,’’ Dominican third baseman Manny Machado of the Baltimore Orioles says, “and you see Future Hall of Famers, multiple All-Stars. I mean, it’s just an unbelievable group we have here.’’
Still, they nearly lost Sunday afternoon to Colombia, escaping with a 10-3, 11-inning victory. If the Dominican Republic had lost the game, Colombia would have advanced to San Diego as the top seed under the complicated tie-breaking procedures. Team USA would have had to play the Dominican Republic in a tiebreaker Monday for the final berth.
“We were trying to figure out all of the scenarios ourselves,’’ USA coach Rich Donnelly said. “We even brought out the slide ruler in the eighth inning trying to figure it all out.’’
Needless to say, the United States had no aspirations to stick around town another day, and take their chances against the most powerful lineup in the land.
“That team could win the National League,’’ Donnelly said. “Has any of their hitters ever been pinch-hit for in their life?’’
Still, despite the Dominican’s powerful lineup, USA features a starting rotation that absolutely dominated them and everyone else in their three games.
The USA starting rotation pitched 12 2/3 scoreless innings, yielding just five hits while striking out 14 batters with no walks and a hit batter. Chris Archer, Marcus Stroman and Danny Duffy, who never pitched more than 4 2/3 innings in the first round, now will have their pitch limit expanded to 85 pitches.
Manager Jim Leyland, who leaned on his relievers for 15 1/3 innings in Miami, also will have a fresh bullpen. The lineup certainly has been erratic, with six of his regulars limited to one or fewer hits. Still, just the experience alone of playing together for three games, Leyland believes, should carry over to San Diego.
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