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Canada vs USA Matters!

Wow.  I’m having to re-write this on the fly, so that wow is now for two reason.  Firstly, for one of the nastiest basebrawls you’ll see.  And secondly, what a result for Canada.

We’re going to take a break from our regular Vancouver Canadians programming to look at the Canadians currently in Phoenix.

After watching the debacle that was the Italy game, I don’t think I was in the minority when I thought this tournament was going to end badly for Canada.  I laughed out loud after reading the below tweet from baseball insider Shi Davidi:


My immediate reaction was simple.  If Canada gets mercy ruled by Italy, they don’t have a hope in hell against either Mexico (who did end up beating the US) or one of the tournament favourites in Team USA.  If you can find the above tweet in your feed, read some of the comments it got, seems others shared the same view, albeit with far more colourful language.

But that is why they play the games.

This may need to be re-written again, but I am going to assume Canada can close this one out.  Presuming the US beats Italy (no guarantee given how well Italy have played) it sets up a winner take all for the second round tomorrow.

So, the million dollar question.  Does Canada have a chance?  To win, two things have to happen.

One, the middle order needs to produce like it has today.  So far, B.C. boys, Justin Morneau and Michael Saunders have been doing the bulk of the damage with eleven hits, including five doubles, between them.  If Joey Votto gets going, that is a very

turned out to be an alright tournament (photo courtesy of nasorb.cm)

turned out to be an alright tournament (photo courtesy of nasorb.cm)

potent combination.

Joe Torre is no dummy though. He’s looking to neutralize the Canadian middle order threat by sending left hander Derek Holland against the lefty hitting Canadian lineup.  Being a National Leaguer, Votto wouldn’t have seen much of Holland.  Career wise, Votto is such a good hitter it doesn’t really matter who he is facing.  Yes, he does have platoon splits, but we’re talking about an OPS of 1.001 vs righties against an .898 vs lefties.  Most hitters would kill for an .898 career OPS.

Morneau’s career totals versus Holland is two for nine with two walks.  Not great.  Saunders is zero for nine with three strike outs.  Even worse.  But hey, as I said above, that’s why they play the game.  Holland will be limited to sixty-five pitches as per the first round WBC format.  The key will be to get him to burn up those pitches as early as possible.  Unless Torre is intending on going to Gio Gonzales after Holland, the lefty relievers for the US don’t hold that same fear factor.

The second key for Canada.  Simply Jameson Taillon.  The youngest member of the Canadian roster and highest ever drafted Canadian, Taillon hopes to emulate current Canuck left-fielder Adam Loewen who kept the US off balance as a twenty-one year old in the 2006 tournament.

Taillon, a right-hander in the Pirates organization, had a solid 2012 season which was highlighted by three excellent starts after being called up to double-A Altoona in late August.  In seventeen innings, Jameson gave up three earned runs while striking out eighteen versus a single walk.  Those numbers equate to an exceptional 18 K/BB ratio and 1.26 FIP.  Granted, it is a small sample size, but doube-A is not as far from the majors as one may think.  He shouldn’t suffer any stage fright when facing the US hitters.

Getting a minimum of three solid innings from Jameson will be key.  This game will be broken down into chunks.  Canada can be reasonably confident that the final three innings are in good care with Milwaukee Brewer teammates Jim Henderson (despite yesterday’s struggles) and John Axford.  If Taillon can limit the damage and last three, then it is only the middle three that need concern the boys in red.   After yesterday’s horror show, I’m sure they would have been plenty concerned, but of the three hits Philippe Aumont gave up, two of them were broken bat bloops, while the Nippon Ham Fighter Dustin Molleken threw two clean-ish innings.

Today saw Toronto farmhand Trystan Magnuson throw two solid innings.   If things go right, a combination of those three plus University of British Columbia alum Mark Hardy playing the LOOGIE role could see them through.

Obviously today’s result has seen my hopes soar.  Perhaps unrealistically.  The US will be heavy favourites, having better players than Canada at every position bar first base.  But I really think Team Canada have a chance.  I’m not going to talk about momentum since I’m no believer in it, especially in baseball, but one thing I can guarantee is that today’s brawl will have done no harm in terms of team chemistry.

Am sure the boys will be telling war stories tonight over a beer or two.  Mix in the great result and Canada are going to be very relaxed going into tomorrow’s game.  All the pressure will be on Team USA’s shoulders, let’s hope they find it a bit heavy.

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