Team USA splits weekend in World Baseball Classic
The Americans outlasted Great Britain in their first match-up of the World Baseball Classic but fell to Mexico the next day.
USA vs UK
With a team chalked full of All-Stars and power hitters, Team USA’s first game in the World Baseball Classic felt like a lackluster performance only scoring 6 runs in the effort. From Mike Trout to Mookie Betts, this USA team is one of the strongest line-ups in the world. Needless to say, it surprised many baseball fans when Great Britain took an early 1-0 lead over the defending champs at Chase Field in Arizona.
USA fans looked forward to battling their cross-the-pond rivals, but they got a rude awakening when Dodger outfielder homered in the top of the first inning off starter Adam Wainwright to put Great Britain up early. Wainwright is a Major League Baseball veteran with three All-Star appearances and two Gold Gloves to his name. Vance Worley, in comparison, started on the rubber for Great Britain. Worley was an MLB journeyman from 2010 to 2017, playing for five different teams during that period. Amazingly, Worley was able to hold off the high powered American offense for the first two frames of the game.
As the third inning rolled around, USA fans began to wonder when the offense would live up to their high expectations. Nolan Arenado answered the call and drove in his St. Louis Cardinal teammate Paul Goldschmidt to tie the game at one-a-piece. After breaking the ice, the Americans began to find their rhythm.
In the very next inning, Kyle Schwarber crushed Great Britain fans’ hopes by knocking a three-run homer toward the right field pool at Chase Field. Schwarber, last year’s National League home run leader, gave the Americans some breathing room with the home run and extended the lead to 5-1.
The homer by Schwarber looked to be the nail in the coffin for Great Britain. The second half of the match-up wasn’t filled with too much excitement. Following his first inning follies, Wainwright hit his stride and continued through four innings. Jason Adams, Kyle Freeland, and David Bednar finished out the final five frames, combining for six strikeouts and allowing just three hits on their road to victory.
Arenado was the hero in the red, white, and blue, going 3-5 at the plate and bringing his 10-time Gold Glove to the defense. Arenado, who was a part of the 2017 title team, will be an important leader as the Americans look to go back-to-back.
Matching up against an up-and-coming Great Britain team was a good test to start the tournament, but the teams will only get harder as the campaign continues. Japan and the Dominican Republic have some serious star power on their sides as well and will look to knock the Americans off their pedestal.
USA vs Mexico
In their March 12 match-up vs Mexico, the Americans' lack of pitching depth showed through as they fell 11-5 to their North American challenger. Mexico drew first blood with a two-run home run from Joey Meneses in the top of the first.
Defensive mis-cues and rough pitching plagued the third inning and helped Mexico to extend the lead. An inning later, Meneses corked his second bomb of the day, driving in three runs and pushing the lead to six — 7-1.
The U.S. did their best to re-enter the game, but Mexico kept their foot on the gas and finished the game 11-5. Tim Anderson and Bobby Witt Jr. were the lone bright spots for the U.S. Anderson recorded two hits with three RBI’s, while Witt made his first tournament appearance and recorded a hit and RBI in his one visit to the plate.
With an interesting combination of veteran and young talent, this USA team is poised for a deep tournament run. However, as every sports fan knows, with every Goliath there is a David; complacency and comfortability could spell doom for the Americans. Mexico proved that no one is unbeatable. After falling to Colombia on March 11, Mexico entered the game with a fierce mentality and delivered devastating blows early.
In a tournament that is as emotionally and nationalistically charged as this one, it will take more than pure talent to lift the trophy. Tournaments like this are built on moments — moments of luck, perseverance, and the unimaginable. A World Series trophy places you in a special category, but a title at the World Baseball Classic places you and your team in sports immortality.