Miami Marlins

United States puts away Canada early, advances to second round of WBC

Nolan Arenado is congratulated by U.S. teammates Christian Yelich (7) and Adam Jones (10) after smacking a three-run homer that gave the Americans a 6-0 lead in the second inning in their Pool C win over Canada in the World Baseball Classic at Marlins Park.
Nolan Arenado is congratulated by U.S. teammates Christian Yelich (7) and Adam Jones (10) after smacking a three-run homer that gave the Americans a 6-0 lead in the second inning in their Pool C win over Canada in the World Baseball Classic at Marlins Park. dsantiago@elnuevoherald.com

Team USA didn’t want to worry about tiebreaker scenarios on Sunday night.

And it wanted to put the memory of its disappointing loss to the Dominican Republic in the rear-view mirror.

The United States took care of both quickly by burying Canada with seven runs in the first two innings as it cruised to an 8-0 victory in its final opening-round game of the 2017 World Baseball Classic at Marlins Park.

“The expectations for Team USA are high, and I tried to downplay that but it’s a thrill to get out of here,” Team USA and former Marlins manager Jim Leyland said. “It wasn’t easy, to be honest with you. But when you look at it, we won two good games and we lost one tough game where we had a good lead. So I’m very pleased with the performances, and I’m excited to move on.”

A crowd of 22,303 watched the U.S. keep its streak alive of advancing to at least the second round of the WBC, as it clinched the runner-up spot in Pool C behind the Dominican Republic, which advanced earlier in the day with an extra-inning win over Colombia.

Team USA has high expectations in this year’s WBC as it hopes to win it for the first time. The U.S. has only advanced to the semifinals once in 2009.

“There’s no doubt we’re taking it real serious,” U.S. third baseman Nolan Arenado said. “I’m diving headfirst into first. I mean, I don’t know how serious I can take it other than that. I love this and I love being here, and we’re representing our country and it’s not just a walk in the park.”

Dominican Republic third baseman and Brito Miami alum Manny Machado earned MVP honors for the Pool C bracket. Machado hit .357 in three games with a home run and two RBI and made numerous key defensive plays at third base.

Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich started for the second consecutive game and went 2 for 5 with two runs scored. In three opening-round games, Yelich went 5 for 10 with three doubles, an RBI and scored the winning run in the United States’ extra-inning win over Colombia on Friday night.

Yelich’s Marlins and U.S. teammate Giancarlo Stanton went 1 for 9 with a double in the three games.

The six WBC games drew 163,878 fans to Marlins Park, including a pair of sellouts. The Dominican Republic’s win over the United States on Saturday night broke the ballpark’s record for baseball game attendance with a crowd of 37,446.

Former Marlins manager Jim Leyland talks about Team USA beating Canada to advance to the second round of the World Baseball Classic.

Arenado delivered the big blow in the second inning on Sunday night when he smacked a three-run home run off Andrew Albers that landed just west of the home run sculpture. Buster Posey added a solo homer almost to the same spot in the seventh and had three RBI.

Plantation American Heritage alum Eric Hosmer got things started for the U.S. with a two-run double in the first that scored Ian Kinsler and Yelich.

“We had to go out and take care of business,” Hosmer said. “We know from this point on the tournament gets tougher and tougher. It was such an emotional game [Saturday], so it was important for us to get off to a good start [Sunday night].”

Former Marlin Ryan Dempster exited in the first inning after only 24 pitches. Dempster, who came out of retirement to pitch for Canada after not pitching in the majors since 2013, walked three and gave up three runs after recording only one out.

In two starts for Canada, which dropped to 3-8 all-time in the WBC, Dempster gave up seven runs on nine hits with one strikeout in just  2 1/3 innings. Dempster pitched on only two days’ rest after going two innings in a 9-2 loss to the Dominican Republic on Thursday night.

Team Canada manager Ernie Whitt thanked players such as Dempster for playing for Team Canada but addressed the need for more major-league-level talent to bolster future WBC rosters.

“We just can’t put our roster up against teams like the Dominican Republic and United States if we don’t have all of our big-league players,” Whitt said. “And until they make a commitment that they’re going to do that, we’re going to struggle in the WBC.”

For the U.S., Danny Duffy threw four shutout innings, allowed two hits and struck out seven in what ended as a combined four-hitter among five pitchers.

The U.S. begins the next round of pool play on Tuesday at Petco Park in San Diego.

The Americans will get another chance to face the Dominicans in a loaded four-team group that will also include 2013 WBC runner-up Puerto Rico and either Venezuela, Italy or Mexico. The U.S. will play its first game at 9 p.m. Wednesday against whoever advances out of those three teams.

Leyland said lefty Drew Smyly of the Mariners would likely start that game.

Team USA will then play Puerto Rico at 10 p.m. Friday and the Dominican Republic at 10 p.m. Saturday. The top two teams from the pool advance to the semifinals beginning March 20 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.

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