By Kevin Glew (Canadian Baseball Network)
PHOENIX - Right-hander Noah Skirrow (Stoney Creek, ON) tossed five scoreless innings and Otto Lopez (Montreal, QC) belted a three-run home run in the ninth inning to lead Canada to a 5-0 win over Colombia at the World Baseball Classic at Chase Field in Phoenix, Ariz., on Tuesday.
Skirrow, making his national team debut, started and allowed just two hits, while striking out five.
“I couldn't ask for much more, really,” said Skirrow about his performance after the game. “I mean, [it] went about as good as you could ask for it to go. [I was] Just trying to be as aggressive as I could and give us a chance to win and give us as much length as possible.”
With the victory, Canada’s record is now 2-1, which moves them into a tie atop the Pool C standings with the U.S. Canada will now face Mexico (1-1) in their final game of Pool C play on Wednesday afternoon (3:08PM ET). If they win, they will advance to the quarterfinals.
Lopez, a Toronto Blue Jays prospect, also had a leadoff triple in the eighth inning and scored on a two-out single by Owen Caissie (Burlington, ON).
Skirrow’s batterymate Bo Naylor (Mississauga, ON) was also a key contributor to the win. The 23-year-old catcher not only called a shutout behind the plate, but also threw out Colombia centre fielder Oscar Mercado trying to steal in the third inning and drove in Canada’s first run with a clutch, two-out single that cashed in Tyler O’Neill (Maple Ridge, BC) in the fourth.
Colombia mustered just five hits off Canadian pitchers and only had one runner advance past first base.
Right-hander Curtis Taylor (Port Coquitlam, BC) relieved Skirrow in the sixth inning and proceeded to throw two scoreless innings. Fellow righty Trevor Brigden (North York, ON) took over in the eighth and struck out the first two batters he faced in his scoreless frame.
Veteran right-hander Scott Mathieson (Aldergrove, BC) then got the final three outs in the ninth.
“They always say good pitching beats good hitting,” said Canadian manager Ernie Whitt about his pitching staff’s performance on Tuesday. “And Colombia is a very aggressive team, and we were able to spot up our fastballs and breaking balls and kind of keep them where they didn't get the barrel of the bat on the ball. Kudos to our pitchers. They did their job and we finally broke through at the end.”
Canada had 10 hits in the game. Leadoff hitter Edouard Julien (Quebec City, Que.) reached base four times with two singles, a double and a walk and also stole a base. For the tournament, the Minnesota Twins infield prospect is 5-for-9 (.556 batting average) with five walks.
O’Neill added two more hits and a walk for Canada and is now 7-for-11 (.636) in the tournament.
The Canadians earned the win despite first baseman Freddie Freeman having to leave the game after his at bat in the third inning with hamstring tightness. Freeman’s exit forced manager Ernie Whitt to move Jared Young (Prince George, BC) from left field to first base and shift Jacob Robson (Windsor, ON) from centre field to left and to bring Denzel Clarke (Pickering, ON) in to play centre field and take over Freeman’s spot in the order.
Clarke filled in admirably in Freeman’s lineup spot, reaching base twice with a hit by a pitch and a walk in the seventh inning. He also stole a base.
Whitt said after the game that it’s unlikely Freeman will play against Mexico on Wednesday.
Left-hander Adrian Almeida was the tough-luck losing pitcher for Colombia. He allowed just one run on two hits, while striking out five, in three innings in his start.
With the victory, Canada has won two games at the World Baseball Classic for the first time since 2006.