By Bob Elliott
PHOENIX -- Don’t blame this on Russell Martin.
We used to refer to Chase Field as the site of the Team Canada massacre.
It’s where Canada went up 8-0 against Team USA then held on for a memorable 8-6 win in the inaugural World Baseball Classic in 2006.
Well, Chase remains the site of the Team Canada massacre.
Except ... it’s another kind.
Italy, No. 9 in world rankings, thumped No. 6th-ranked Canada 14-4 upping its record to 2-0 in this year’s WBC Friday afternoon before 5,140 fans at Chase Field.
The game was called out with none out in the eighth due to WBC mercy rule as Italy put up a five spot.
With none out.
“Uncle,” said coach Stubby Clapp heading for the bus.
No one could recall the last time a Canadian senior team had been mercied.
Now, Canada must beat Mexico Saturday with Chris Leroux on the mound and Sunday with Jameson Taillon against Team USA in the hope of creating a tie for second in the pool.
The day could have been worse, but Mexico beat Team USA ... leaving the standings
Team Canada 0-1
Team USA 0-1
If Canada wins the final two games against Mexico and Team USA then they’re in, but that might be an easier task to try irrigating the desert before the top two teams begin play Tuesday in Miami.
This was embarrassing, disappointing, annoying and frustrating.
“Every time we got close, they came back the next inning and put runs on the board,” Team Canada manager Ernie Whitt told reporters. “You have to have some shutdown innings, we weren’t able to do that.
“It’s full of momentum swings and they kept the momentum on their side. We had it when we came back within two (6-4 in the seventh) and weren’t able to shut them down the next inning.”
Italy out hit Canada (17-7), threw more strikes (four by Italian hurlers, seven walks by six Canuck pitchers), delivered more often with men in scoring position (Italy was 9-for-16, Canada was 3-for-13) and increased its winning streak over Canada to two.
The only place Canada led was in cheering fans dressed clad in red and white.
“I thought Canada’s pitching was terrible, they never got ahead of anyone, I know they have better players than that,” said one evaluator. “Were they saving guys?”
Ah, no Fergie Jenkins, John Hiller, Rhéal Cormier and Ron Taylor not working either of the next two games.
Team Canada decision makers held their best starter Scott Richmond for Game 3 against Venezuela in 2009 at the Rogers Centre. After losing 6-5 to Team USA and 6-2 to Italy, Richmond was well rested -- for his next start after he flew back to Florida.
This time Canada went with its best, most experienced starter in Shawn Hill, who left with the score tied and a man on third, followed by former major league reliever Scott Mathieson.
Mathieson allowed a run-scoring, single to Alex Liddi from the Seattle Mariners and then a first-pitch, three-run homer to Chris Colabello, a non-roster invite with the Minnesota Twins, after eight years in the Can-Am League, seven with the Worcester Tornadoes.
“He jumped on my fastball,” said Mathieson. “A game like that you forget about, you can’t dwell on it. If we had lost 4-3 it would probably be harder, more frustrating the next day. You come back and forget about everything, start fresh. We have nothing to lose, go out there and play our best.
The six Canadian pitchers managed to record only 21 outs, rather than the normal 27.
If you were at the Rogers Centre in 2009 when Italy eliminated Canada with a 6-2 and wondered about the state of Canadian baseball, you would have banging your hear against the wall as free-agent R.J. Swindle, a replacement for injured Jesse Crain threw 20 pitches, only two of which were clocked at 80 MPH. The rest were in the 70s.
Canada was trailing 9-4 when Swindle entered and went walk, single, single, double, walk-off single. Like the Windsor peewees, Team Canada players walked off ... heads down.
Italy started “The Maestro” right-hander Alex Maestri, who pitched in Japan last year. Facing seven left-handed hitters he allowed doubles to Mike Saunders and Peter Orr in the second and left after a lead-off single to Justin Morneau in the fourth up 5-1.
Cue lefties Chris Cooper and Dan Serafini, like in 2009. With Serafini starting and Cooper following him the two lefties combined to work 5 2/3 inning allowing two runs.
Cooper pitched three innings allowing a run and Serafini was chased after a run-scoring Saunders single.
Dustin Molleken pitched two scoreless -- the only Canadian pitcher to put up a zero -- allowing Canada to close the gap to 6-4. Phillippe Aumont and Jimmy Henderson pitched before Swindle.
“We’ll show up, we’ll play, that’s all can I say,” said Whitt. “We have to pitch better, we have to get some more timely hits. We miss Brett Lawrie, but that’s not the reason why we lost.
“Be honest, they came up with key hits in situations where we didn’t shut them down. One player is not going to make a difference.”
Canada supposedly had an advantage since Jason Grilli threw more than 30 pitches and was not available.
There never was a save situation.
No, don’t blame Martin, although shortstop Cale Iorg did have a throwing error.