Bluebird Banter, being lovers of the Canada's team, the Toronto Blue Jays, and Canadian baseball, will gladly provide coverage of Team Canada in the inaugural World Baseball Classic. In the 16 team tournament, Canada was grouped in Pool B with our continental foes USA, Mexico, and er... South Africa (close enough to North America). Team USA with their offensive firepower and a pitching staff that is skillful and deep, is the obvious favourite within this pool. The second playoff spot from Pool B will likely be occupied by either Canada or Mexico, with South Africa being the longshot of the Pool.
Yesterday, Pool play began and here is the boxscore for the game between Canada and South Africa.
W: Reitsma (1-0)
L: Elario (0-1)
SV: Crain (1)
Ernie Whitt would be lying to you if he said he wasn't nervous and when South Africa took a 1-run lead in the bottom of the 8th. This game was a lot closer than anyone expected and too close for comfort for anyone who lives in Igloos. Team Canada starter Erik Bedard overwhelmed the South African hitters in his four scoreless innings of work; he only gave up 2 hits and 2 walks, while striking out 6. However, the work of the Canadian Bullpen starkly contrasted the brilliant work of Bedard. The trio of Quantrill, Meyers, and Reitsma, gave up a combined total of 8 runs on 6 hits and 2 walks over 2 2/3 innings.
Offensively, the 11 runs and 12 hits recorded by Canada was definitely a team effort, as 10 different players recorded a hit in this game. Not to diminish the offensive performance of Team Canada, but a sizable factor of the 11 run output was aided by some shoddy South African pitching. The South African pitchers issued a Nolan Ryanesque combined total of 11 walks and 8 wild pitches (we will conveniently forget about the strikeouts).
Although sloppy at times, it was nonetheless an exciting game filled with late innings drama and heroics. No matter how gut-wrenching it was, a win is a win, and I will take it. Congratulations to Canada for the Victory, and best of luck in their game against the Americans today.