* Canada had a 3-2 lead with five outs to go before Team USA scored seven runs in the final two innings off Jim Henderson, Scott Mathieson and John Axford. .... Day VII with Team Canada, a win over Mexico Day VI with Team Canada, a loss to Italy
By Bob Elliott
PHOENIX, Az. -- Somewhere on a desk in either Ernie Whitt or Greg Hamilton’s briefcase is a piece of paper which reads:
Jim Henderson 8th.
John Axford, 9th
Team Canada had a 3-2 lead when Henderson took over in the eighth against Team USA.
Six outs to go.
Henderson, Scott Mathieson and Axford allowed seven runs in the final two innings as Team USA scored a 9-4 win over Canada to advance to the second round of the World Baseball Classic.
The exciting contest with late lead changes in the sixth and eighth was played before 22,425 fans at Chase Field, who tooks turns chanting "GO CANADA GO" and USA! USA!
“That’s how we drew it up, me with the ball in the eighth, then John,” said Henderson, given the narrowest of margins to protect in the eighth. He allowed a single up the middle to Joe Mauer and then walked David Wright.
“The walk cost us,” said Henderson. Team USA popped up a bunt attempt.
Five outs to go.
The runners were on the move on their own and Adam Jones doubled to centre and later scored on an Eric Hosmer single.
“Wearing USA across your chest is a little bit different than Baltimore,” said Jones. “You’re representing a larger group of people. It’s a special occasion for everyone, even repeat guys that have played for Team USA and for the first.”
Michael Saunders was named MVP of the pool hitting .727 (8-for-11) with a homer and seven RBIs.
As Foster Hewitt would say, the score was not indicative of the play, with Canada trailing 5-4 and having the bases loaded in the eighth when reliever Steve Cishek came on to strike out pinch hitter Tim Smith.
“It was the best I’ve felt all spring,” said Henderson, “Jones missed a fastball, so then we went slider ... but I left it up.
“I got a taste of what playoff baseball would be like.”
Whitt chose to go with Mathieson in the ninth, rather than Axford.
Mathieson and Axford allowed four runs in the ninth, the key blow a Hosmer bases-clearing double to centre.
”Of the young guys, the guy who impressed me the most was Jameson Taillon," said Joey Votto.
Starter Taillon, 21, worked four innings throwing 57 pitches, 34 for strikes, He was up 2-0 on Saunders’ two-run homer, when Team USA tied the game in the fourth. Mauer singled and David Wright walked. Ben Zobrist bunted to third where Taylor Green started in and then retreated.
Green fielded the ball and bounced the throw to first allowing Mauer to score. Taillon set down the next three in order, with a fly ball by Jones tying the score.
The right-hander’s mom Christy is from the Lawrence Park area of Toronto and father Mike Taillon from St. Andrews, Ont., were in attendance and saw their son work pitch innings allowing two runs -- one earned -- on four hits and one walk. He struck out three in his 57-pitch outing, throwing 34 strikes.
Scouts complained that Taillon had a “long arm” action meaning it’s easier for hitters to see the ball in his first outing against the Milwaukee Brewers.
Yet, it looked smooth and effective in this one and threw a breaking ball in tough spots: a 3-2 count to Ryan Braun.
The dual citizen said he felt like a Canadian from the time he arrived.
“Right from when we went to Justin Morneau’s house after our Monday workout and played a street hockey,” said Taillon. “Team Canada took a chance on me. I’ve met guys here that I’ll keep in touch with forever.”
Taillon said he saw highlights of Adam Loewen’s 3 2/3 scoreless innings in 2006 Sunday morn on TV.
“Adam walked by and said, ‘soak it all up,’” said Taillon. “From the time I found out which game I was starting I took the approach that I had nothing to lose ... everything to gain.
“This was a different atmosphere that I’ve ever been in.”
Team USA lefty Derek Holland worked five innings for Team USA allowing four hits and two runs.
How much fun would it be to face a lineup with seven left-handed hitters in it each night?
“They put some good swings on me, Toronto ... er I mean Canada, has a good-hitting club,” said Holland. “Saunders got me (two-run homer). Doing well against lefties and facing a lineup of left-handed hitters are two different things.”
Votto and Morneau reached to open the sixth against lefty reliever Glenn Perkins. Perkins rebounded by catching Saunders looking and getting Robinson on a fly ball. Loewen then lined a single to left to give Canada a 3-2 lead.
Canada scored when the red-hot B.C. left-hander boyos went back-to-back: Morneau doubled to right centre and Saunders hit the first pitch from Holland to right for a two-run homer.
Rounding first Saunders extended his right arm into the air.
Dustin Molleken pitched an impressive two scoreless innings and Phillippe Aumont worked a scoreless yet nervy seventh.
Six outs away.
And then Whitt gave the ball to Henderson.
So close and yet so far.