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U.S. 6, CANADA 5

U.S. avoids upset, but Canada doesn't go easily

Players can feel the excitement at World Baseball Classic game in Toronto.

March 08, 2009|Phil Rogers

TORONTO — There were 42,314 at Rogers Centre, and seats were not required. Certainly not in the ninth inning, and frequently throughout a captivating game in which a strong United States team sweated out a 6-5 victory that wasn't decided until the last of eight pitches that J.J. Putz threw to Jason Bay.

Until Bay lifted a soft fly ball to right fielder Shane Victorino, another Team Canada upset -- the kind served at the original World Baseball Classic in 2006 -- had been on the table, for the taking. The predominantly Canadian crowd, which serenaded Justin Morneau and new favorite Joey Votto all Saturday afternoon, almost seemed stunned when Bay did not come through.

"I've never been to the playoffs, but I imagine this is a playoff atmosphere," said Adam Dunn, who hit one of the U.S.'s three home runs. "The crowd was electric. It was how baseball should be played."

The game was an exciting one and might have had a different ending if Canada had been able to start the conspicuously absent Ryan Dempster -- the crowd booed his appearances in a scoreboard montage about Canadian baseball -- instead of blue-collar guy Mike Johnson (four innings, four runs).

Having lost to the Canadians, 8-6, in Phoenix three years ago, the Americans were a little nervous when ninth-inning doubles by Russell Martin and Votto (four for five with a homer) put the tying run on second with only one out in the ninth. Putz got Morneau to ground out on the first pitch and, eventually, Bay to fly out, allowing U.S. players to breathe again.

The United States plays Venezuela tonight. Venezuela defeated Italy, 7-0.

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progers@tribune.com

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