March 9, 2006
An instant classicCanada stuns mighty Americans
By BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun
PHOENIX -- Into the clubhouse Team Canada players came, giddy as can be.
ESPN was showing Adam Stern's inside-the-park home run again and again to trumpet news of Team Canada's stunning upset 8-6 win over Team USA.
"They kept showing it over and over," shortstop Pete Orr said, "and every time when he slid home he jumped up and pumped his fist.
"We cheered each time when they showed it and then teased him for the pump. We were acting like little kids."
The kids, the left-handed hitting kids on the North American block, knocked off their brothers to the south in front of 16,993 fans.
Canada roared out to an 8-0 lead against lefties Dontrelle Willis and then Al Leiter.
Jason Varitek hit a slam off Eric Cyr to make it 8-6, but then Cyr retired the next seven he faced in succession. Minor leaguers Scott Mathieson and Steve Green closed out the game, Mathieson working a scoreless eighth and Green finishing the Americans in the ninth for the save.
"We thought we'd go with the kids," said manager Ernie Whitt, who saved his bullets (Jeff Francis, Chris Reitsma, Jesse Crain) for tonight. "When I was a player and I'd never seen a pitcher before, I always thought that the pitcher had the advantage.
"That's a pretty good lineup over there -- Alex Rodriguez didn't even make the starting nine and Vernon Wells didn't start against Mexico."
Canada plays Mexico tonight and can clinch a berth in the second round.
Stern did more than pump his fist. He followed Aaron Guiel's triple in the second with a run-scoring triple, hit a two-run single up the middle off Leiter in the third, dove to rob Jeff Francouer of a hit to end the eighth and made a stumbling catch against the wall to end the eighth on a drive by Chase Utley.
"I knew he smoked it," Stern said, "and I knew it was going deep. I put my head down, ran to the spot and said 'C'mon baby, don't hit the facing.' "
Lefty Adam Loewen, 21, started for Team Canada and faced a one-out bases-loaded jam after walking both Ken Griffey and Derrek Lee. He got Chipper Jones on an inning-ending double play. Despite being behind in the count, Loewen pitched 3 2/3 scoreless walking three, allowing three hits.
"I'm a power pitcher, so I've had lots of practise at pitching from behind," Loewen laughed. "I know I should be better at it."
Loewen did just fine, as fine as Erik Bedard did in the win over South Africa, pitching four scoreless.
Canada outhit Team USA 13-8, with Justin Morneau doubling in a run in the fourth, as did Corey Koskie with a single.
"I was impressed with the way they swung the bats," Derek Jeter said. "Dontrelle's not too easy for a left-handed hitter to face and they had eight left-handed hitters."
Canada went 7-for-14 against Willis, including Stubby Clapp's triple in the first.
"That left vs. left business really doesn't bother us," Orr said. "We see left-handers so often."
Whether it is the early background in hockey or shoveling show, Canada produces lots of left-handed hitters.
"I don't know whether it's the hockey mentality or what, but it's a never-say-die situation," Whitt said. "Our back was against the wall in the ninth against South Africa and we scored four times.
"Team USA came back against us and we never quit, which makes me proud as a manager."
There were a few Canadian baseball people with their chests stuck out.
"If we have more heart and desire than they do -- and I believe we do -- we'll do OK," said coach Larry Walker before the game. "Baseball is not a game played on paper. On paper, they win."
No, this game was played on Chase Field, the most historic win in Canadian baseball history.
Stern and Morneau each had three hits and Jason Bay had two. Green got the win and Loewen the save.
But the big winner was Canadian baseball.
A Offence: Canada hit early in often in the clutch, going 7-for-14 against lefty Dontrelle Willis.
B Defence: Adam Stern made two fine catches in centre, the only blemish was an error by Pete Orr at short.
B + Pitching: Loewen was outstanding, Eric Cyr, Scott Mathieson and Steve Green got the job done. Only Chris Begg was roughed up.