March 14, 2023
By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
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, Ont.) 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, Ont.) who entered the game in relief.
In the top of the second, Jared Young (Prince George, B.C.) 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, B.C.) 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, Que.) 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, Que.) singled and Tyler O’Neill (Maple Ridge, B.C.) 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, B.C.), 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, B.C.) 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.”
-It’s hard not to feel bad for Bratt who’s a talented and very nice young man. But how would any pitcher fare against the first four hitters on the U.S. squad? Mookie Betts, Mike Trout, Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado have combined for five big league MVP awards and 30 (!) All-Star Game selections. They are all destined for the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
-Mike Trout offered some encouraging words to Bratt at the U.S. press conference after the game. “I think everybody in this game is going to go through a rough stretch,” said Trout. “It’s how you come out of it. You’ve got to have that mentality to come out of it. I think I look back and when I first came up I struggled, but I learned from it. And, like Tim [Anderson] said, it’s a tough task for a young kid. I think he’s, what, 19 years old? He’s going to go out there against our lineup. Like I said, just try to get through it. Learn from it. And next time he gets in a situation like that, try to be better.”
-For those feeling nostalgic about the Montreal Expos (like me), there was four former Expos on the coaching staffs last night: Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.) and Denis Boucher (Lachine, Que.) for Canada and Jerry Manuel (bench coach) and Lou Collier (first base coach) for the U.S.
-Philadelphia Phillies pitching prospect Noah Skirrow (Stoney Creek, Ont.), who posted a combined 4.36 ERA in 119 2/3 innings in 25 starts between double-A and triple-A in 2022, will start for Canada against Colombia on Tuesday afternoon. He will be making his national team debut. At a pre-game press conference on Monday, the 24-year-old Skirrow talked about what it was like to be part of Team Canada at the World Baseball Classic. “I mean right from the start, it’s the first time I’ve ever flown first class. So that was fun. But I guess just being in the same locker room with some long-time big leaguers. We know the names: Freeman and O’Neill and Quantrill and Brash and stuff. That’s pretty cool,” said Skirrow. “But I think the craziest, wildest part of the whole thing is how much we are all pulling in the same direction. To see how quickly guys came together for a common goal here was pretty cool to see with our wide-ranging and lifestyles and backgrounds and everything that everybody’s pulling in the same direction right off the bat was pretty cool to see.”
-Canada has only played Colombia once in the World Baseball Classic. On March 10, 2017, Canada lost 4-1 at Marlins Park in Miami.