In a game that was marred by a benches-clearing brawl, Canada broke out the bats and blasted México, 10-3. Justin Morneau and Michael Saunders tied a World Baseball Classic record with four hits apiece and Chris Leroux gave the Canadians a strong start and the team’s first win in the WBC’s opening round.
After the embarrassment of a shelling by Italy, the Canadians took out their frustrations on Marco Estrada. The right-hander had a strong 2012 season for the Milwaukee Brewers and was considered pivotal to México’s chances.
Instead, he was greeted with a barrage of hits, as Canada teed off Estrada for five straight base knocks with one out. Taylor Green and Joey Votto started with singles and Justin Morneau plated Green with a double. Michael Saunders collected two RBI on a one-base hit and Chris Robinson finished the four-run rally with a line drive that plated Saunders.
Estrada got a double play to end the threat, but the damage was done and México spent the rest of the game trying to catch up. It did manage an unearned run in the bottom of the inning against Leroux, drawing the deficit to 4-1.
Both pitchers had 1-2-3 second innings before battling through trouble in the third. It was México that would next add to the scoreboard, though it was against reliever Andrew Albers after Leroux hit his pitch limit.
Karim García and Édgar González singled to lead off the fourth, and Sebastian Valle followed with another one-base hit. The bloop single was fielded by Canada’s Tyson Gillies in centre, who uncorked a strong throw to catcher Chris Robinson. The well-built García barrelled into Canada’s backstop, but Robinson held on for the out.
México was not finished, though. Gil Velásquez stroked a double to score González and Eduardo Arredondo plated a second run for México with a sacrifice fly.
Reliever César Ramos, who came in to start the fourth in relief of Estrada, pitched a scoreless fourth to preserve the 4-3 lead. His teammates could not erase the deficit and Canada struck again in the sixth.
Saunders laced his second double to lead off the inning and came around on a one-base hit by Pete Orr. It was the first of four straight innings that Canada would score. After the rough start, Albers settled down and threw a scoreless fifth and sixth.
In the seventh, Green walked to start the frame and Morneau ripped a run-scoring double with one out. Morneau would later score on a groundout by the hero of the WBC qualifying round, Jimmy Van Ostrand.
Trystan Magnusson relieved Albers in the bottom of the seventh, and quickly turned things back over to Canada’s hitters, getting the 2-3-4 hitters to go 1-2-3.
Canada mounted a two-out attack in the eighth. Green had another hit and Votto walked, leading to a RBI-single by Morneau. Saunders was not to be out-done and stroked a one-base hit to left field that plated Votto. Morneau was thrown out going to third on a nice throw from Édgar González.
Magnusson had his second hitless inning in the bottom of the eighth and the game entered its final inning. Robinson bunted his way aboard after placing a beautiful ball down the third base line, raising the ire of third baseman Luís Cruz, who was not expecting the play.
It appeared that Cruz told pitcher Arnold León to plunk Robinson for violated one of baseball’s unwritten rules that states that a team should not bunt or attempt to steal with a significant lead. After two balls well inside, León succeeded in hitting Rene Tosoni.
In the ensuing mêlée, both benches cleared and seven players were ejected after the scrapping turned, in several occasions, into serious fighting. Canadian manager Ernie Whitt defended the bunt by noting that the WBC encourages large run differentials in case of the need for a tiebreaker.
Canada would take advantage of Robinson’s heads-up play, loading the bases with no outs. Cale Iorg lifted a ball to left that would score one, though that was all the red-and-white would push across.
John Axford, closer for Canada and the Milwaukee Brewers, struck out one in a three-up, three-down ninth. Leroux earned the victory with a strong start, striking out four in three frames, scattering a walk and two hits. Albers gave up six hits and two runs in three frames, but did not walk a batter and whiffed three. Magnusson and Axford finished the game with three hitless innings.
Estrada took the loss, surrendering four runs on seven hits, striking out two. Five other pitchers finished the contest for México, with Ramos the most effective. He hurled 2 1/3 innings with two Ks, allowing a run and four baserunners.
Velázquez was the player on the losing side to register multiple hits as the team combined for eight. The heart of México’s order went 1-for-16 and left seven runners in scoring position, with the most notable failure that of the hitless Adrián González.
Morneau and Saunders both had a pair of doubles, two singles, scored two runs, and drove in three to lead Canada. Green had a three-hit, three-run day and Robinson collected two knocks. Canada was an incredible 7-for-14 with runners in scoring position.
The result ended México’s World Baseball Classic run with a 1-2 record. The 11th-ranked nation will have to take a page from their opponents’ history and reach the 2017 WBC through the qualifying rounds. Canada took a 1-1 record into their showdown with the United States on the final day of Pool D action.
Check back for the news and analysis leading up to the next Classic, including the conclusion of the 2013 edition.