TORONTO – Uninspired. That describes the performance by team Canada Monday night in their 6-2 loss to Italy, eliminating the Canucks from the World Baseball Classic in the process.
The word can also be used to describe the fan support for team Canada. Playing in front of a ‘home crowd’, only 12,411 people were on hand to watch the game, a far cry from the 42,000 who cheered for the red and white as they took on the USA Saturday afternoon.
Italy did nothing spectacular throughout the course of the game, but managed to grab a first inning lead and never gave it up. Chris Denorfia of the Oakland Athletics, who put together a 4-4 night, which included three doubles and two RBIs, led the way for the Italians who will now play Venezuela in tomorrow’s semi final.
The Italian squad played smart baseball and came up with the hits they needed with runners in scoring position. Strong pitching by winning starter Dan Serafini and solid defense also contributed to a whole team effort, a team originally expected to finish last in the pool.
Italy’s defense was on dazzling display in the bottom of the seventh. With the crowd desperately trying to rally Canada, the Italian defense made two diving plays, turning sure hits into outs.
First, third baseman Alex Liddi dove for a ground ball to throw out Russell Martin at first. That was followed up by the star of the night, Denorfia, making a spectacular diving catch in center field robbing Joey Votto of a hit.
The European nation put the game out of reach in the top half of the seventh, scoring two runs.
The second run came to fruition thanks to pinch runner Mike Costanzo, who beat out a throw to second on a soft ground ball that would have been the final out of the inning. Instead his hustle allowed Liddi to score from third.
Italy scored a run in each of the first four innings as Canadian starting pitcher Vince Perkins struggled with his control, giving up four walks and three hits before being pulled in the third inning, while also taking the loss.
The Canadian bats produced their only runs in the bottom of the fourth. The heart of the order led the inning off with three consecutive doubles, putting up their first two runs of the game pulling within two of the Italians.
Canada appeared in good shape to put more runs on the board in that same inning, loading the bases with only one out. But Peter Orr and Chris Barnwell both failed to drive in any additional runs, leaving the bases juiced.
After going 2-1 during the inaugural World Baseball Classic in 2006, Canada took a step back this time around, going 0-2 while being the first team eliminated from Pool C.
Italy, widely considered the weakest team in the pool, will now play Venezuela in Tomorrow night’s semi-final, in a rematch of the Saturday night game, which Venezuela won 7-0. The winner of that game will clinch a spot in round two of the World Baseball Classic. The winner will also play the United States in the Pool C final Wednesday night.
Game Notes: Canada’s first four hits of the game were doubles…Italy scored one run in each of the first four innings…Justin Morneau went 4-5 in the game…Don Cherry threw out the ceremonial first pitch…Jason Bay recorded a single thanks to a ball that hit the catwalk in the fifth inning…Stubby Clapp was greeted with loud applause and chants of his name in his final at bat for team Canada…the last four batters in Canada’s line up combined to go 0-12…Jesse Crain of Canada struck out the final four Italian batters of the game.