After an embarrassing 14-4 loss against Italy on Friday night, Canada (1-1) scored a big 10-3 win against Mexico (1-2) in an emotional World Baseball Classic game that included a bench-clearing brawl in the top of the ninth inning. It took a fight to bring some excitement to the 2013 edition of the World Baseball Classic. This victory means that Canada staved off elimination as they prepare to face off against the United States on Sunday afternoon.
The winner of tomorrow's game will be advancing to face Italy in Round 2 of the WBC. The winner of tomorrow's game will be advancing to Round 2 of the WBC, unless Italy beats the United States, in that case Canada would be able to advance unless they lose by more than 4 or 5 runs. Or something like that. Just win and you'll be safe, Canada.
Coming into the afternoon tilt, the Mexicans were still jubilant from their upset win against the Americans Friday night and the Canadians were still hurting from the drubbing against Italy, but the reversal of fortune happened right after the game started.
The rally was led off by Taylor Green--Brett Lawrie's replacement at third base for Canada--lined a single against Mexico starter Marco Estrada. Etobicoke's Joey Votto slapped a 2-1 fastball for another single, pushing Green to second. Justin Morneau of Newminister put the Canadians on the board with a beautiful double to right field, scoring Green with Votto being reluctantly held at third. Victoria native Michael Saunders then brought in Votto and Morneau on a seeing-eye single up the middle. Saunders then went from first to third on an uncontested stolen base and then an Estrada wild pitch. Russel Martin's replacement, catcher Chris Robinson of London, then lined a single to bring in Saunders from third to make it 4-0 Canada. The back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back hit parade was ended when Adam Loewen grounded into a double play on a check swing.
Canada starter Chris Leroux of Montreal and Mississauga got into a bit of trouble in the bottom of the first after allowing Eduardo Arrendondo and Luis Cruz to reach base, bringing Adrian Gonzalez to the plate with men on first and second, one out. Leroux induced Gonzalez to hit a grounder to Joey Votto for the inning-ending double play, but the normally sure-handed first baseman rushed and threw high to shortstop Cale Iorg at second base, allowing Arredondo. If Iorg had stepped off the bag and caught the ball, he would still have had time to catch the lumbering Gonzalez at first, but he chose to try to reach the errant ball, resulting in an error for Votto. Centrefielder Tyson Gillies then made two very nice catches on two fly balls, including a 400-foot shot by Karim Garcia to end the first.
After three innings of one-hit ball on four strike outs and a single walk, Leroux hit his pitch count and was replaced by North Battleford native Andrew Albers. Albers struggled at first, allowing four straight hits to begin his appearance. Karim Garcia and Edgar Gonzalez (Adrian's brother, as the commentators reminded us many times) led off with a couple of singles. When the next batter, Sebastian Valle singled to Gillies, Garcia tried to score from second but the Vancouverite gunned him down at home in a brutal collision with Canadian catcher Chris Robinson. Replay showed that there was no tag applied on Garcia, but he was called out when he walked back to the Mexico bench. Garcia injured himself on that play and had to sit out the rest of the match. Despite escaping from a run, Albers promptly allowed a Gil Valezquez RBI-double followed by a sacrifice fly to narrow the lead to 4-3.
Albers calmed down and got out of the fourth, minimizing the damage to just two runs. He threw two more scoreless innings after that. Canada tagged on one more run in the top of the fourth against Cesar Ramos on a Pete Orr single. In the top of the seventh, Morneau scored Taylor Green from second on a double, and Vancouverite Jimmy Van Ostrand, pinch hitting for his Surrey neighbour Adam Loewen, scores Morneau on a fielder's choice. Blue Jays farm hand Trystan Magnuson came in the bottom of the seventh and completed a 1-2-3 inning as well as a scoreless eighth inning.
Canada was up 9-3 going into the top of the ninth inning thanks to RBI-singles from Morneau and Saunders in the top of the eighth. Leading off was catcher Chris Robinson, who had already been the symbol of toughness first by a hard take-out slide to try to break up Loewen's double play, and later by staying in the game despite being bowled over by Karim Garcia, hit in the nuts by a pitch, and fouling a ball off his foot. Robinson, noticing that Mexico was playing their infield back, dropped a nice bunt down the third base line and easily reached for a single. Mexico third baseman Luis Cruz did not like Canada bunting being up by six runs and told pitcher Arnold Leon to hit the next Canadian batter, Torontonian Rene Tosoni.
Leon, being a good soldier, followed the orders and.... missed Tosoni. Then Leon aimed inside again, and bang!... missed Tosoni again. Everyone in the stadium knew that he was trying to hit the batter and home plate umpire Brian Gorman sent warnings to both dugouts. The next pitch, taking no chances of missing, Leon threw behind Tosoni and hit in square in the back.
Both dugouts and bullpens quickly emptied and the international tussle was actually one of the better base-brawls I have seen. There were real punches being thrown and real take downs coming from both teams. Of course, some clown in the stands decided to throw a water bottle at Canadian pitching coach Denis Boucher and someone else threw a baseball that almost hit first base coach Larry Walker. Walker, unfazed, taunted the mostly pro-Mexican crowd by proudly showing off the "CANADA" on his jersey, according to Jeff Passan. There would be sporadic fights in the stands for the rest of the game. Ejections included Leon, Arrendondo, Oliver Perez, and Alfredo Aceves on the Mexico side, and Tosoni, Orr, and Jay Johnson for Canada. Johnson was the one who laid this beating on Arrendondo:
After the game, Mexico manager Rick Renteria claimed that the whole thing was a big misunderstanding, with his players not knowing the tournament's run differential rules well enough to understand why Robinson chose to bunt despite being up by six runs. My cow poop sensor went off right there: recall that Leon tried to hit Tosoni twice and failed--wouldn't that have been a good time for the manager to go out to clarify such rules to his pitcher in order to avoid further misunderstandings? In any case, it was clear that the Mexicans were just angry that they were basically eliminated from the tournament despite winning against the Americans.
Things eventually calmed down to allow the game to resume. Cale Iorg--long time Blue Jays player and coach Garth's son--hit a sac fly to score Robinson to make the score 10-3 Canada before John Axford came in to deal three quick outs and finish the Canadian conquest of Mexico.
Here is the video of the after-game interview with Ernie Whitt, Justin Morneau, and Chris Robinson, and a transcript of the wonderful interview with Larry Walker. And you can catch Don Cherry's take on the brawl on Coach's Corner, at the 1:57 mark.
For those of you who aren't able to see that Coach's Corner video with Cherry and Don MacLean, here is a transcript of the part where they talked about the fight:
MACLEAN: OK, Larry Walker.
CHERRY gives "thumbs up" gesture.
MACLEAN: Here's what he had to say about the riot today between Team Canada and Mexico. He said "hey, it's Saturday night and we're just trying to get on Hockey Night In Canada. Don Cherry can't wait to show these highlights."
CHERRY: Now what--so--he's--uh--he tries three times to hit him and they're mad, Mexicans are mad 'cause we bunted up score. Gets him the third and there's Gormany the-uh-- umpire he's--uh--forty years I think he's been did it. Hits him here Tosoni, Toronto boy, he's not gonna take that. Don't you take that! The catcher, yea, the catcher goes. Watch when he really throws 'em here at the end.
MACLEAN: Why did we run up the score?
CHERRY: Well, you gotta run up the score in the tournament. They said before the tourament, some baseball guys, we don't do that. Look at--(chuckles)--the lefty's going there. You don't run up the score but we had to run up the score because that's what they do in the tournament. And this is what we did. Watch this guy hit him and run, but he gets up down watch the good guy and BOOM! A left hander gets him down. It's a way to go like that good Canadian boys we gotta beat the Americans tomorrow!
MACLEAN: So, that brings us to--Larry just about got dumped on right there.
CHERRY: Yea he threw it.
There's nothing like a good fight (and a win) to stir up patriotic feelings among Canadians. Let's hope that they can take that with them tomorrow in a must-win game against the tough American team.