PHOENIX – Team USA manager Mark DeRosa walked into his press availability prior to Monday night’s game against Canada with a plan of how he wanted everything to look. Starter Lance Lynn would quickly retire the side in the top of the first, allowing the top-of-the-order quartet of Mookie Betts, Mike Trout, Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado to swing the lumber that has brought the group a combined 30 All-Star appearances.
DeRosa proved prophetic.
“I just want us to relax a little bit,” DeRosa said. “I’d like to get into the dugout bottom of the first, not down. Kind of give everybody a chance to exhale and let these top four guys do their thing.”
They certainly did their thing.
Team USA tied the World Baseball Classic record for runs in an inning by blitzing Canada pitching with a nine-run bottom of the first after Lynn went three up, three down. On the heels of a defeat Sunday, Team USA was off and running, never looking back in a 12-1 victory at Chase Field that ended after 6 ½ innings because of the WBC’s mercy rule.
If Team USA (2-1) wins its next Pool C game against Colombia (1-1) on Wednesday (10 p.m. ET, FS1), it would advance to the quarterfinals. Two teams from each pool advance. Canada fell to 1-1.
The patience and ferocity of the U.S. batting order was perfectly encapsulated by a pair of plate appearances from Trout, the team captain: His first time up, a four-pitch walk; his second, a first-pitch fastball walloped 405 feet, landing in the left-center-field bleachers, sending a roar throughout Chase Field with a three-run home run and making the score 9-0, still in the first inning.
“Obviously a tough loss last night,” Trout said, referring to Sunday's 11-5 loss to Mexico. “We came in today with a little more swagger. I think it woke us up a little bit. The message for us was go out there and bang, be ourselves.
“Today we came in with the mindset of, ‘We’re going to dominate.’”
In the first two innings alone, Team USA recorded six hits on balls that left the bat north of 100 mph. Eight members of the starting lineup collected at least one hit, putting Canada – who started 19-year-old southpaw Mitch Bratt – on its heels from the jump.
“Being in the lineup with so many dudes, you really don’t have to do too much,” said Tim Anderson, who drew a rare start at second base, something he had never done in his big league career. “I really think the whole goal is to pass the stick and I think you saw it out of the gate tonight.”
Before the 2023 version of Team USA ever took a swing in the tournament, DeRosa was emphatic that he was working with an otherworldly level of offensive talent, no matter whom the opposition sent out to the mound.
“When you look at this lineup on paper – and you can put whoever you want in there – I don’t know how you get through it,” DeRosa said last week.
This game marked just the second mercy rule win for Team USA in Classic history, having previously done so against South Africa in 2006. And the Americans tied the WBC record for most runs in an inning, set by Cuba in 2009.
Not to be lost in the early offensive eruption was how integral Lynn’s performance was to a club that was in considerable need of length after eight pitchers entered the game the night prior. The limits state that 65 pitches are the maximum one hurler can throw in pool play, but that didn’t deter the 35-year-old from attempting to be the stopper.
“I know the offense broke out – I loved it, I loved everybody contributing,” DeRosa said. “But for me, the story was what Lance was able to do. Period.”
While Lynn quipped that he took the hill with the mentality of figuring out how he could get through nine frames with just 65 pitches, his five frames of dominance were nearly just as effective. He yielded just two hits and struck out six, throwing exactly 65 pitches before turning the ball over to Miles Mikolas for the final two frames.
“You knew you had to come out with some energy, and I knew if I had [success] early on and let the guys get back in the dugout with the ability to take the lead, we had a real good chance,” Lynn said.
Canada will have little time to dwell on its defeat, needing to be back at the yard for a 3 p.m. ET game Tuesday (FS2) against Colombia, which will move the victor into a favorable spot as the clubs jockey for position. Two of the five teams from Pool C will advance to the WBC quarterfinals. Mexico is also 1-1 and Britain is 1-2.