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WBC: Nine-run first leads U.S. to win over Canada

By Kevin Glew (Canadian Baseball Network)

A nine-run first inning propelled the United States to a 12-1 win over Canada at the World Baseball Classic on Monday night at Chase Field in Phoenix, Ariz.

The loss drops Canada’s record to 1-1 at the tournament, while the U.S moves to 2-1.

The game was a valuable learning experience for Canadian starter Mitch Bratt (Newmarket, ON) who at 19 years, 253 days old became the youngest player ever to pitch for Team Canada at the World Baseball Classic.

In the first inning, the U.S. scored nine runs on five hits, three walks and a hit by pitch. The big blows were a two-run double by third baseman Nolan Arenado and a three-run home run from Mike Trout off right-hander RJ Freure (Burlington, ON) who entered the game in relief.

In the top of the second, Jared Young (Prince George, BC) responded with a leadoff home run for Canada off U.S. starter Lance Lynn for his first hit of the tournament.

The U.S. answered with three runs in the bottom of the frame when Arenado walked and was tripled home by Tim Anderson, who would score on a sacrifice fly by J.T. Realmuto. Trea Turner followed with a solo home run to make it 12-1.

On a positive note for Canada, right-hander Indigo Diaz (North Vancouver, BC) entered the game in the fourth inning to make his national team debut and tossed 1 2/3 scoreless innings, striking out Anderson and Mookie Betts during his appearance.

Third baseman Abraham Toro (Longueuil, QC) singled in the fifth inning for one of his two hits on the night. Toro’s fifth inning hit was the second and last hit Canada had against Lynn in his five-inning, 65-pitch start for the U.S in which he fanned six batters to pick up the win.

Second baseman Edouard Julien (Quebec City, QC) singled and Tyler O’Neill (Maple Ridge, BC) doubled in the sixth off U.S. reliever Miles Milokas but Canada couldn’t score.

In the game’s most heartwarming moment, 38-year-old left-hander Adam Loewen (Surrey, BC), who hasn’t pitched professionally since 2018, returned to the mound at Chase Field. A 21-year-old Loewen had been the starting pitcher for Canada against the U.S. at the same field in the 2006 World Baseball Classic. In that contest, he pitched 3 2/3 scoreless innings in Canada’s 8-6 upset win. 

On this night, Loewen, who lost his wife, Lynda, to cancer in December 2021 and with his children in the stands, came into the game with two outs in the fifth and got Arenado to fly out to centre field to end the inning and then struck out Kyle Tucker to start the sixth before Canadian manager Ernie Whitt came out to remove him. The two briefly embraced before Loewen left the mound.

“I was just glad that he came and joined us on this trip, what a way to go with a strikeout -- not to say that he's not done, but he's not feeling real well either,” said Whitt about Loewen after the game. “So it was a perfect way for him to possibly end his career.”

Making his WBC debut, right-hander Cade Smith (Vancouver, BC) took over for Loewen and recorded the final two outs of the sixth.

Canada (1-1) will now play an important game against Colombia (1-1) in their third game of Pool C play on Tuesday afternoon (3:08PM ET).

“Coming into the tournament, we knew we had to win three games . . . if we win the next two games, we will move on,” Whitt said after Monday’s loss. “And that was our mindset coming into it.”