It's nice to see so many of you getting on the Netherlands bandwagon. Because it sure doesn't look like Team USA is going anywhere. If you haven't voted in my cap poll, you can still do so here.
United States vs. Mexico
Team USA had promised that this World Baseball Classic would be different from the disappointments of the previous tournaments.The Americans would be ready to play on day one and, if not win the whole tournament, at least advance to the championship game.
So far, nothing has changed and Team USA is still disappointing.
Mexico jumped all over US starter R.A. Dickey, who's knuckleball was very hittable in the first three innings. Center fielder Eduardo Arredondo slapped the first pitch of the game into center field for a double. Next up, second baseman Ramiro Pena doubled to put runners on second and third with no outs. Both runs scored after a sac fly and a ground out to give Mexico a 2-0 lead.
Two innings later, Adrian Gonzalez got ahold of a Dickey knuckler and launched a deep home run to dead center field to make it 4-0. Dickey took the loss after allowing four runs on six hits over four innings. He struck out two and did not walk a batter.
Meanwhile, Mexican starter Yovani Gallardo went through the powerful Team USA lineup facing the minimum nine over three innings. The only blemish was a Joe Mauer single, but he was promptly erased by a David Wright double play.
The US finally got on the board in the fourth inning when Jimmy Rollins lead off the inning with a single and Ryan Braun walked with one out. At that point Gallardo was pulled for Luis Mendoza, who struck out Mauer but then gave up an RBI single to David Wright. But with the tying run coming to the plate with two outs, Mendoza got Eric Hosmer to ground out to second base to end the threat.
Glen Perkins replaced Dickey in the fifth and promptly gave back the run when Eduardo Arrendo doubled to lead off the inning and then scored after a sacrifice bunt and a sacrifice fly.
Team USA didn't put up much of a fight after that. Giancarlo Stanton twice just missed hitting one out; missing a three-run home run in the sixth and a two-run home run eighth innings, but both balls died on the warning track to end the inning both times.
Team USA did get a run in the eighth inning when Braun hit a bloop double to short right-center field and scored when Hosmer hit a bloop single to almost the exact same spot.
If you're looking for a hero for Team USA, Steve Cishek entered the game in the eighth inning with runners on second and third and only one out and escaped the jam without any runs scoring. In a tournament where run differential could decide who advances, Cishek came up huge.
Sergio Romo came in to pitch the ninth inning and retired the Americans in order.
Arredondo, who is a long-time Mexican League veteran, went 3 for 5 with a double. Jorge Cantu was 2 for 5 with a double. Adrian Gonzalez was 1 for 2 with that home run, but for the most part, US pitchers wanted nothing to do with him, walking him three times.
Team USA has lost a game in both of the previous first rounds of the WBC and still advanced, but they have placed themselves into a deep hole. Mexico takes on Canada at 1:30 Central and the US takes on Italy at 8 pm central. Technically neither game is a must-win right now for either team, but for all practical purposes they both are must wins. The US also needs to run up the score on Italy. They'll probably have to win by three runs to advance if Mexico beats Canada.
Spain vs. Puerto Rico
Most observers thought that host Puerto Rico would easily handle Spain and when they jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning, it looked like the rout was on.
Not so fast.
Puerto Rico did win the game, but neither team scored again as Puerto Rico defeated Spain 3-0 in the first WBC game for both teams.
Spanish starter Sergio Perez, who pitched for the Astros Triple-A Oklahoma City franchise the past two seasons, gave up a lead-off single to Angel Pagan. After a sacrifice bunt and Alex Rios getting hit bay a pitch, Pagan scored on a Carlos Beltran double. Another run scored on a Mike Aviles hit a sacrifice fly and then Perez walked Pedro Valdes and Carlos Rivera to force in the third run.
Puerto Rico loaded the bases again off of Perez in the bottom of the second with one out, but failed to score. After that, Puerto Rico never mounted a serious threat the rest of the game. This was mostly because of the pitching of Richard Salazar, who threw five scoreless innings, allowing only two hits and a walk. That's pretty impressive for a guy who's pitched in the independent American Association since 2008.
But while Salazar gave the Spanish team a chance to get back into the game, Spain's hitters could never cash in. Spain put runners on first and second in both the sixth and seventh innings, but Puerto Rico escaped with a double play both times.
Puerto Rican starter Giancarlo Alvarado, who pitched for Yokohama last season, got the win. He gave up only one hit over four innings. He didn't walk anyone (although he did hit one batter) and he struck out four. Astros reliever Xavier Cedeno struck out the only batter he faced for the save.
Spain takes on the Dominican Republic this morning at 10 am Central. In the second game of the San Juan double-header, Puerto Rico will play Venezuela at 4:30 Chicago time.