United States puts away Canada early, advances to second round

KEITH ALLISON  FLICKRWhy the United States should turn its attention to international baseball

"So we got to come out and win a game tomorrow". Anyone notice teammates standing at the rail of the dugout, clapping nervously, biting fingernails, waving towels, anything to keep their mind busy during what so obviously had developed into the most tense March baseball moment in these professionals' lives?

Team USA advanced out of the first round of the World Baseball Classic thanks in part to a pair of Royals. It turns out those were the conditions presented to Team USA by the Tampa Bay Rays when Archer came to the team. They pounded starter Martin Perez for four runs in 3.2 innings.

The Dominican Republic won its 11 straight WBC game on Sunday, claiming Pool C in Miami by winning all three games. And why are there ones who are rolling their eyes when thinking about its importance?

"This is how we play baseball", Machado said.

"Meaningful is (and has been) a very debatable word" when it comes to the WBC, one responded.

"Thursday was loud", said Cruz, referring to the Dominican's opening game against Colombia. But while the Dominicans have now booked their ticket to San Diego, the second qualifying slot remains wide open - but the Canada vs. United States of America contest will decide who moves on and who returns to routine Spring Training baseball.

Team USA didn't want to worry about tiebreaker scenarios Sunday night. Look at the USA-Colombia game Friday for proof.

Team USA pulled the plug on Ryan Dempster after six batters, striking quickly for three runs.

"I wish I would have made a couple of better pitches, " Dempster said.

Their dominating offense got the best of all three countries.

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Other nations participating simply don't have this issue.

"Maybe in dreams. Maybe when you play Little League", Cruz said.

The result means Mexico (1-2) and Italy (1-2) will have a play-in game on Monday to join Puerto Rico in the final eight.

So, let's not confuse lack of complete participation with a lack of meaning.

It also symbolizes how the United States of America views this tournament compared to other countries.

Japan moved to 4-0 with an 8-6 second-round victory over the Netherlands in 11 innings in Tokyo. It was exactly the kind of dramatic affair the WBC needed to bring more attention to the rest of the tournament.

Do you think this tournament isn't meaningful to Japan? 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. Butera, coming around from first, decided to make a break for home on the misplay with what would have been the winning run. Well, manager Hiroki Kokubo and his staff crafted the roster, intentionally leaving any pitcher who has appeared in a big league game off it. Was it meaningful to the teams from Korea and China, who played a spirited, back-and-forth consolation game in front of a raucous crowd?

The U.S. fell to 1-1 and is in jeopardy of being eliminated in the first round.

"Now you know why I'm not managing anymore, " said US manager Jim Leyland, appearing emotionally spent.

Prior to this appearance, Roark had been terrific in Spring Training while with the Nationals.

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