PHOENIX — The United States entered Saturday night's World Baseball Classic game against Italy knowing that no matter what happened, it would still need to defeat Canada on Sunday to have any chance of advancing to the second round of games. Italy, which won its first two games, had already clinched a berth.
The teams played like it mattered anyway, bunting runners over and making strategic pitching changes — until the Wright guy came up in the right spot for the U.S.
That would be David Wright, a Team USA veteran, who broke a tie by unloading a no-doubt-about-it-when-he-hit it grand slam with two outs in the fifth inning to provide the margin of victory in a 6-2 win before 19,303 at Chase Field.
The blast, the second grand slam the U.S. has hit in three WBC tournaments, landed far over the left-center field wall and helped the U.S. even its record at 1-1.
The winner of Sunday's game between the U.S. and Canada will advance along with Italy to the WBC's second round in Florida next week. Mexico was eliminated after dropping to 1-2 with a 10-3 loss to Canada in a game that included an ugly, bench-clearing brawl. Canada is also 1-1.
Canada's win came with seven player ejections — Mexico players Arnold Leon, Oliver Perez, Eduardo Arredondo and Alfredo Aceves; and Canada players Pete Orr, Rene Tosoni and Jay Johnson — after a fight in which players from both sides traded punches.
The melee was ignited when Leon hit Tosoni with a pitch after Canada catcher Chris Robinson led off the ninth inning by bunting for a hit with his team leading 9-3.
Mexico third baseman, the Dodgers' Luis Cruz, said something to Leon when he returned the ball to him after the bunt, and the next two pitches brushed back Tosoni before the third hit him.
Managers from both teams blamed the situation on players not understanding the rules of the tournament, which include run differential among the tiebreakers.
Fans also became unruly. Denis Boucher, Canada's pitching coach, was hit by a full water bottle and first base coach Larry Walker was nearly struck by a ball thrown from the seats. At that point, Canada Manager Ernie Whitt threatened to pull his team off the field.
Justin Morneau and Michael Sanders each had four hits and drove in three runs for Canada.