Otto Lopez (Montreal, Que.) belted a three-run home run in the ninth inning for Canada in their 5-0 win over Colombia at the World Baseball Classic on Tuesday. Photo: Baseball Canada
March 15, 2023
By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
Right-hander Noah Skirrow (Stoney Creek, Ont.) tossed five scoreless innings and Otto Lopez (Montreal, Que.) 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 (3:08 p.m. E.T.). 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, Ont.).
Skirrow’s batterymate Bo Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.) 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, B.C.) 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, B.C.) relieved Skirrow in the sixth inning and proceeded to throw two scoreless innings. Fellow righty Trevor Brigden (North York, Ont.) took over in the eighth and struck out the first two batters he faced in his scoreless frame.
Veteran right-hander Scott Mathieson (Aldergrove, B.C.) 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, B.C.) from left field to first base and shift Jacob Robson (Windsor, Ont.) from centre field to left and to bring Denzel Clarke (Pickering, Ont.) 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.
-Team Colombia manager Jolbert Cabrera was signed by the Montreal Expos as a free agent on July 3, 1990. He spent seven seasons in the Expos’ organization, rising as high as triple-A Ottawa in 1997.
-Team Colombia coach Orlando Cabrera (brother of Jolbert) was signed by the Expos on July 1, 1993. The sure-handed shortstop batted .267 in 904 games in eight seasons with the Expos. He won a Gold Glove in 2001.
-Despite Freeman’s hamstring injury, Canada will not be able to add another player to their roster. That means Jared Young (Prince George, B.C.) will likely be back at first base in today’s game against Mexico.
-Left-hander Rob Zastryzny who will start for Canada against Mexico today. Here’s a short bio about him: Born in Edmonton, Alta., Zastryzny attended Calallen High School in Corpus Christi, Tex. and later pitched at the University of Missouri Columbia. A second-round pick of the Chicago Cubs in 2013, Zastryzny recorded a 4.41 ERA in 18 relief appearances with the Cubs from 2016 to 2018 and earned a World Series ring in 2016. From 2019 to 2022, he pitched in the Los Angeles Dodgers, Baltimore Orioles, Miami Marlins, New York Mets and Los Angeles Angels organizations. After making one relief appearance for the Mets in 2022, the Canuck southpaw was designated for assignment and claimed by the Angels. He proceeded to post a 2.25 ERA in eight relief appearances for the Angels’ triple-A Salt Lake Bees before being called up and pitching in five games for the big league club. In December, he signed a minor league deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Although he has been used primarily as a reliever in recent years, Zastryzny did make six starts for the triple-A Syracuse Mets last season.
-Zastryzny was asked about pitching against Mexico at a press conference prior to Tuesday’s game against Mexico. “I played against most of those guys [on the Mexican team] before in my career. And basically it’s a story of last night all over again; when the guys go out there and attack the zone, keep the hitters on their heels, a lot of success happens. So that’s the plan for tomorrow,” said the lefty.
-Skirrow’s five scoreless innings against Colombia on Tuesday meant that Canada only had to use four pitchers in the win. And they didn’t have to use their closer Matt Brash (Kingston, Ont.). Whitt says all of his pitchers aside from Skirrow will be available on Wednesday. “We’re set. We still have some good arms out there. And, again, it was just us playing to try to save the arms for the last two games. And hopefully Rob will give us a good start tomorrow,” said Whitt at yesterday’s post-game press conference. “And, again, as I’ve said all along in this tournament, the first round, a lot of it falls on your bullpen. We have some arms that will be ready for tomorrow.”