Tuesday, March 14, 2017

World Baseball Classic - Game 3 - USA vs. Canada

The Game
This game started with an explosion and then cruised to its end after that.  
Going into this game, Team USA was in a situation of “win and you’re in.”  The Dominican Republic had already done to Colombia what they had been doing to every other team they faced, scoring 7 runs in the 11th to break a 3-3 tie and end up winning 10-3.  This meant that Team USA could avoid a messy tie-breaker situation like that which got Mexico eliminated from the tournament the day before by beating Canada and taking the 2nd spot behind the DR.  
In the first and second innings, the team certainly looked like they were determined to ensure there would be no surprise comeback against them this game.  
For the third game in a row, Team USA got a dominate pitching performance from their starting pitcher.  Danny Duffy went four innings before being pulled due to pitch count, allowing only two hits and no runs.  When you add his performance to Stroman’s and Archer’s the games before, Team USA starting pitching went 16 2/3 innings without giving up a single run, and striking out 15 during that stretch, tying a WBC records for strikeouts in a single round.  Only once in the three games I saw were there men on first and second behind one of the starters.  
I thought Duffy’s was the most commanding performance of the three, at least in the beginning.  He started off with a first pitch strike with almost every batter he faced, and sometimes even two.  He stayed ahead of them and forced them to make easy grounders to the infield when they did make contact.  
Team USA hitting was just as dominant in the first two innings.  They went through the entire line-up in the first inning, posting three runs and driving out the Canadian starting pitcher before the frame was up.  They added another four more in the 2nd, punctuated by a three-run homer by Nolan Arenado.  It was the first home run in the series for the team and put them up 6-0 at that point in the game.  I started wondering after the inning ended if was going to see the game shorted by the WBC mercy rule, which ends the game if one team is ahead by 15 runs after five innings, or ahead by 10 after seven.  At the rate they were scoring runs, I was looking forward to an early end and a chance to get back to the hotel early to pack for my flight out next morning.  
After the blistering start, the game settled down into something less intense.  Maybe the USA hitters didn’t feel the need to pile on the runs with how well their pitchers were doing.  The remainder of the game would have a player or two reach base, but there was no sense of any genuine threat to the score being built.  Only Buster Posey’s solo shot in the bottom of the eight changed the scoreboard after the third inning started.  
The USA relievers did a much better job preventing any hint of a rally by
Team Canada.  The Canadian batters were displaying their frustration with greater frequency with each inning and at bat.  Canada went 0-3 in the first round of the WBC and will have to qualify if they are to play in the tournament in 2021. 
With this win, Team USA finished 2-1 behind the Dominican Republic in their pool and will start play later this week in San Diego at Petco Park.  They will play the DR team again on Saturday, 3/18, in a rematch of Saturday’s game.  
The Experience
This was very much my usual experience at a ballpark in the United States.  There were no drums or chants.  The seats were fairly empty when the game started, though that may have been due to the unexpected rainstorm that swooped through just before game time.  They filled up soon enough though as people came in late.  It was first time I recall seeing “the wave” make its way through the crowd during the tournament.  I don’t “wave” myself.  It often seems to be something fans start doing when the action on the field isn’t keeping their interest.  
That may have been the case this time two.  With the explosion of runs at the beginning of the game, it was pretty much done before it was over.  I was happy with the result.  I wanted to see Team USA go on the the 2nd and then Final Rounds after this, and now they have that chance.  But the looks on the faces of the Team Canada fans, some of whom I’d met and talked with, and sat next to while they cheered on the USA against Colombia and the DR, in the previous games took away any desire to celebrate overtly.  This was not how they wanted their team to go out, and I could appreciate that sentiment.  
As for the WBC as an event, I can say I definitely enjoyed it.  As I said, I got the result I wanted overall, Team USA advancing to the next round.  But it reminded me of my experience going to WorldCon, the World Science Fiction Convention which takes place every year in a different city somewhere on the planet.  Just as I am alone in my “normal life” when it comes to not having someone to talk with about aliens and faster than life travel, I have very few people on a daily basis where I can chat about how the game would be better without the DH rule, or why Kershaw is so dominate, or what team needs what to make it to the playoffs.  This trip to the WBC gave me a chance to talk with people every day for three days straight, that shared my passion for the game and gave me a glimpse as how other countries embrace it.  

I hope this tournament continues.  And I hope to go to it again.  Like…  Next week when the finals come to Dodger Stadium?  If Team USA makes it, I plan on being there. 


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