U.S. rallies, but can't overcome 8-0 hole vs. Canada

Updated: March 9, 2006, 11:54 AM ET
Associated Press

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PHOENIX -- Adam Stern hit .133 in 36 games for the Boston Red Sox in an injury-plagued 2005 season. Adam Loewen spent all of last year at Class A Frederick in the Baltimore organization.

Team USA
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty ImagesThe U.S. must now beat South Africa or have Mexico lose one of its remaining games to stay alive.

On a brisk Wednesday afternoon, they outshone the Jeters and A-Rods of Team USA, leading Canada to an surprising 8-6 victory in the first round of the inaugural World Baseball Classic.

"We like to tell everyone we can play baseball, too," Stern said. "We're not just a hockey country."

Stern hit an inside-the-park homer, drove in four runs and made two sensational catches in center.

Loewen, a 21-year-old left-hander, gave up three hits and walked three but didn't allow a run in 3 2/3 innings and got the victory.

"He pitched a heck of a game," U.S. manager Buck Martinez said, "and he showed a lot of composure for a guy that hasn't pitched about A-ball."

Loewen escaped a bases-loaded jam in the first when Chipper Jones hit into a double play.

Team USA Scenarios
The U.S. advances to the World Baseball Classic second round with a win against South Africa on Friday if:

• Canada beats Mexico on Thursday.

• Mexico beats Canada and scores at least three runs. Team USA will not advance if Mexico wins 1-0, 2-0 or 2-1.

"The team played unbelievably behind me," Loewen said. "Stern had the game of his life."

Jason Varitek's 448-foot grand slam helped bring the United States back from an 8-0 deficit, but a Canadian team made up largely of minor-leaguers held on.

"It's a very quiet locker room right now," Martinez said. "I think everybody is feeling like they got kicked in the stomach."

Chase Utley thought he had given the United States the lead in the eighth, flipping his bat and raising both arms in triumph after he hit a long drive to center with two on. But Stern made leaping catch at the wall near the 407-foot sign to end the inning.

"I thought Chase's ball was gone when he hit it," Derek Jeter said. "I mean, he crushed that ball, but you've got to hit it pretty good to get it out in that part of the park."

A crowd of 16,993 at Chase Field alternated between booing America's futility and supportive chants of "U-S-A!"

The United States (1-1) must beat South Africa on Friday, when 43-year-old Roger Clemens starts for the Americans, or have Mexico lose one of its remaining games to stay alive in the 16-nation tournament.

If Mexico, Canada and the United States finish 2-1, the tie would be broken by fewest runs allowed per inning in competition involving only those three teams. In that case, the United States would advance if Mexico scores at least three runs against Canada on Thursday.

Canada had seven left-handed hitters in the lineup, a situation that played perfectly into the hands of lefty U.S. starter Dontrelle Willis, the first player to commit to playing for the Americans last summer.

But the Canadians (2-0), who had to rally in the ninth Tuesday night to beat South Africa 11-8, were patient, hit Willis hard and scored in each of the first five innings.

"I just didn't do anything right today," Willis said. "It's just one of those games."

Stern tripled in a run in the second and singled in two more in the third. Then leading off the fifth, his opposite-field fly ball skidded off the base of the bullpen fence past left fielder Matt Holliday.

As Holliday pulled up lame, Stern raced around the bases for an inside-the-park homer to put Canada up 8-0. After being examined by the trainers, Holliday stayed in the game.

Michael Young started the six-run U.S. fifth with a leadoff single and then scored from first on Ken Griffey Jr.'s second double. Derrek Lee's single brought in pinch-runner Jeff Francoeur. Jones singled, and then Vernon Wells drew a two-out walk that loaded the bases.

Eric Cyr relieved Chris Begg for Canada, and Varitek drove a 2-1 pitch over the main concourse walkway in left-center, cutting the lead to 8-6.

Canada threatened in the eighth when Ryan Radmanovich walked and tried to score from first on Morneau's double to right. But Utley took the relay from Francoeur and threw out Radmanovich at the plate to end the inning.

The United States didn't allow a runner beyond first base in its 2-0 victory over Mexico on Wednesday, but Willis was ineffective and allowed five runs and six hits in 2 2/3 innings. He was relieved by Al Leiter, who surrendered two runs on three hits in two-thirds of an inning.

"I know for a fact we don't have the depth that some of the other countries have," Canadian manger Ernie Whitt said. "But we do have a lot of heart."


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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