Team USA advances to second round of World Baseball Classic

By Mike Axisa | Baseball Writer

Adam Jones and the rest of Team USA are going to Miami. (USATSI)

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Despite the final score, USA and Canada played a tight and exciting Pool D finale on Sunday afternoon at Chase Field in Phoenix. USA's Adam Jones (Orioles) turned a 3-2 deficit into a 4-3 lead with a two-run double off right-hander Jim Henderson (Brewers) in the eighth inning, giving his team the lead for the first time in the game. USA had been 5 for 34 with runners in scoring position in the World Baseball Classic before Jones found the gap.

Canada did not go down without a fight, scoring a run and loading the bases with two outs in the bottom half of the eighth. Right-hander Steve Cishek (Marlins) put out the fire in relief of David Hernandez (Diamondbacks) by coaxing an inning-ending groundout from Tim Smith (Orioles). Eric Hosmer (Royals) broke the game open with a bases-clearing double off John Axford (Brewers) with two outs in the top of the ninth. Closer Craig Kimbrel (Braves) pitched a flawless ninth to preserve the 9-4 win.

With the win, USA (2-1) advances to the second round of Pool 2 along with Italy (2-1), Puerto Rico (2-0) and the Dominican Republic (2-0). The double-elimination second round begins on Tuesday in Miami, when south Florida native Gio Gonzalez (Nationals) gets the ball for USA against the loser of Sunday night's Dominican Republic-Puerto Rico matchup. Japan has already advanced to the semifinal from Pool 1, and either the Netherlands or Cuba will join it.

Canada took control early against USA, when Michael Saunders (Mariners) pulled a Derek Holland (Rangers) pitch down the line to right for a two-run homer in the second. Holland was able to escape the inning without further damage despite putting men on second and third with no outs. USA tied the game in the fourth thanks to an error and a Jones sacrifice fly, and the game remained that way until Canada rallied for a run in the bottom of the sixth -- Adam Loewen (Blue Jays) singled in former NL MVP Joey Votto (Reds) before former AL MVP Justin Morneau (Twins) was stranded at second.

USA manager Joe Torre opted not to start slugger Giancarlo Stanton (Marlins), instead going with Shane Victorino (Red Sox) in an effort to make sure all of his players got into the tournament. Victorino went 1 for 5 with an RBI and three strikeouts. Utility man Willie Bloomquist (D-Backs) pinch-ran in the eighth and winning pitcher Heath Bell (D-Backs) pitched in relief, so every USA player appeared in at least one of their three games.

Even though Canada (1-2) was eliminated from the tournament, Saunders was named Pool MVP after going 8 for 11 with three walks and seven RBI in the three games.

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