U.S. rallies late against Canada to advance in WBC

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The U.S. rallied late against Canada to advance out of Pool D to the second round in the World Baseball Classic. Canada got on the board early thanks to a two-run home run by Michael Saunders off of U.S. starter Derek Holland. Holland was otherwise solid, allowing just the two runs over five innings of work, striking out four while walking one.

The U.S. tied the game in the fourth against Canada starter Jameson Taillon. Joe Mauer singled and David Wright walked to quickly put runners on first and second to lead off the frame. Ben Zobrist dropped a bunt towards third baseman Taylor Green, forcing him into making  a throwing error and allowing Mauer to score. Wright would score on an Adam Jones sacrifice fly to bring the game to 2-2.

Glen Perkins relieved Holland in the sixth and immediately got into trouble, walking Joey Votto and surrendering a single to Justin Morneau. He bounced back, getting Saunders to strike out and Chris Robinson to fly out, but Adam Loewen hit a two-out single to right to put Canada back on top 3-2.

The U.S. took its first lead of the game in the eighth with an emphatic rally after Joe Mauer singled and David Wright walked against Canada reliever Jimmy Henderson. Zobrist again bunted, but this time had poor results as he popped up to the catcher, appearing to snuff out a rally before it even began. However, Adam Jones picked up his teammate, doubling to center scoring both pinch-runner Willie Bloomquist and Wright to put the U.S. up 4-3. An insurance run was added on a two-out Shane Victorino bloop single to left.

Canada tried to fight back in the bottom-half of the inning, but only managed one run after loading the bases with one out. Adam Loewen grounded out to second base, allowing Canada’s fourth run to score, but that was all U.S. relievers David Hernandez and Steve Cishek would allow.

The U.S. got back that insurance run and more in the top of the ninth. Jonathan Lucroy singled to right with one out, driving in Brandon Phillips, who had doubled to lead off the inning. Wright walked and Zobrist hit an infield single to load the bases. With two outs, Eric Hosmer doubled to center, clearing the bases and staking the U.S. to a 9-4 lead.

Craig Kimbrel, who had begun to warm up when the U.S. was up 5-3, entered with a five-run lead. Baseball’s best reliever shut down Canada in 1-2-3 fashion, striking out Votto to seal the victory.

The U.S. and Italy advance out of Pool D into the second round. Beginning on Tuesday, they will do battle against the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.

Shohei Ohtani no longer facing Masahiro Tanaka on Sunday at Yankee Stadium

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Shohei Ohtani has essentially become the Angels’ designated Sunday starting pitcher, but Angels manager Mike Scioscia announced Thursday morning that the 23-year-old two-way Japanese star will be skipped in the rotation this weekend at Yankee Stadium for “workload management” purposes.

Ohtani is fine to continue hitting, so there’s no sense of any physical ailment.

This decision will rob us — and the Japanese media — of a showdown between Ohtani and countrymate Masahiro Tanaka. And for that we are rather devastated, but you can understand the Angels’ concerns about overuse.

Ohtani has registered a 3.35 ERA, 1.066 WHIP, and 52/14 K/BB ratio through his first 40 1/3 innings (seven starts) as a major league pitcher and he’s slashing .308/.364/.582 with six home runs and 19 RBI in 26 games as a part-time DH.