Canada and Mexico brawl figuratively and literally; Canada wins

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Canada kept its second round World Baseball Classic hopes alive with an emphatic 10-3 victory over Mexico today. Coming off an eight-inning 14-4 defeat at the hands of Italy, a game that was called early due to the mercy rule, Canada bounced back with impressive hitting performances by designated hitter Justin Morneau and right fielder Michael Saunders as both logged four hits (including two doubles apiece) and three runs batted in. Third baseman Taylor Green also contributed greatly with three hits and a walk. Starter Chris Leroux was solid over three innings of work before giving way to the bullpen.

The scoring started in the top of the first when Canada tossed up a four-spot behind a Morneau RBI double, a Saunders two-run single, and an RBI single by Chris Robinson. Mexico starter Marco Estrada settled down, though, holding Canada scoreless in his other two innings while his team chipped away. Mexico scored once in the bottom of the first on an error by first baseman Joey Votto, then added two more in the bottom of the fourth on a Gil Velasquez RBI double and Eduardo Arredondo sacrifice fly. Cesar Ramos, in relief of Estrada, pitched well but began to wear down in his third inning of work. In the top of the sixth, Canada added an insurance run on a Pete Orr RBI single to right.

From there, the flood gates opened and Mexico’s bullpen was unable to keep the game close. Canada added two runs in each of the seventh and eighth innings. In the seventh, Morneau drove in a run with another double, then scored later in the inning on a Jimmy Van Ostrand RBI ground out. In the eighth, Morneau singled to right, driving in his third run. Saunders then singled to right, driving in Canada’s ninth run.

Tensions began to flare in the top of the ninth. Leading off the inning, Canada’s Chris Robinson bunted for a hit with his team up by six runs. Reliever Arnold Leon, none too pleased, hit the next batter Rene Tosoni with a fastball, causing both benches to clear. ESPN’s Jim Caple said, “This was not a stand around and look tough fight. There were many punches thrown.”

A Twitter recap of the fracas:

Leon and Tosoni were ejected by home plate umpire Brian Gorman. Jose Cobos came in relief of Leon while Tim Smith replaced Tosoni at first base. During the next at-bat involving Cale Iorg, more chaos ensued:

Iorg ended the at-bat at long last with a fly ball to left field, scoring Robinson for Canada’s tenth run. Tyson Gillies and Green went down in short order to end the inning. John Axford entered the bottom-half of the ninth for the save, shutting down Mexico with a 1-2-3 inning.

Canada, now 1-1, kept their own hopes alive as well as those of the United States. The US and Italy square off at 9 PM ET. Pool D then wraps up Sunday afternoon at 4 PM ET when Canada and the US match up. Mexico will be rooting for Italy against the US, then for the US against Canada, hoping for a three-way tie in which all three teams are 1-2. In such an event, run differential would be used in the tie-breaker. Presently, the US and Canada are tied in run differential at -3 while Mexico lags at -5.

As a side note, the use of run differential in the tie-breaker means that Mexico has no “unwritten rules” ground upon which to stand after taking offense to Robinson’s ninth-inning bunt.

Maddon: Shohei Ohtani won’t pitch again for Angels this year

Shohei Ohtani
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Shohei Ohtani won’t pitch again this season for the Los Angeles Angels after straining his right forearm in his second start, manager Joe Maddon says.

Ohtani likely will return to the Angels’ lineup as their designated hitter this week, Maddon said Tuesday night before the club opened a road series against the Seattle Mariners.

The Angels’ stance on Ohtani is unsurprising after the club announced he had strained the flexor pronator mass near the elbow of his pitching arm. The two-way star’s recovery from the strain requires him to abstain from throwing for four to six weeks, which covers most of the shortened 2020 season.

“I’m not anticipating him pitching at all this year,” Maddon said. “Any kind of throwing program is going to be very conservative.”

Ohtani was injured Sunday in the second inning of his second start since returning to the mound following Tommy John surgery in late 2018. Ohtani issued five walks during the 42-pitch inning against the Houston Astros, with his velocity dropping later in the frame.

The arm injury is another obstacle in Ohtani’s path to becoming the majors’ first true two-way player in decades. He made 10 mound starts as a rookie in 2018 before injuring his elbow, but he served as the Angels’ regular designated hitter last season while recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Ohtani has pitched in only three games since June 2018, but the Angels still believe in Ohtani’s ability to be a two-way player, Maddon said.

“I’m seeing that he can,” Maddon said. “We’ve just got to get past the arm maladies and figure that out. But I’ve seen it. He’s just such a high-end arm, and we’ve seen what he can do in the batter’s box. Now maybe it might get to the point where he may choose to do one thing over the other and express that to us. I know he likes to hit. In my mind’s eye, he’s still going to be able to do this.”

The veteran manager believes Ohtani will benefit from a full spring training and a normal season. Ohtani wasn’t throwing at full strength for a starter when the coronavirus pandemic shut down spring training in March because he wasn’t expected to pitch until May as he returned from surgery.

“Going into a regular season with a normal number of starts and all the things that permit guys to be ready for a year, that’s what we need to see is some normalcy before you make that kind of determination,” Maddon said.

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