Canadians can probably relate to what their southern neighbours are going through at the moment, a star studded lineup of professional athletes dons their nations colours to defend their national past time, only to find some upstart nation comes along and delivers what can only be called a shocker of a message.
On Wednesday afternoon, Canada’s entry in the World Baseball Classic delivered the shocking statement of the tournament thus far, an 8-6 victory over the team that is expected to win it all!
And that 8-6 score will only look good in the box scores, things were much worse on the field for the USA. Canada had an 8-0 advantage going into the fifth inning, something that had the locals occassionally jeering their national heroes. At one point Canada was two runs away from the “mercy rule”, which would have ended the game after seven innings had Canada made it up to 10 and had the Americans failed to score any.
As it turned out a bottom of the fifth inning burst gave the Americans six runs, which closed the gap and staved off humiliation. Yet, by simply hanging on over the final four innings Canada delivered a message, don’t take a mixed group of major and minor leaguers lightly when they play with a maple leaf on their chest.
Canada’s unlikely upset of the baseball giant, came from an outstanding pitching performance by Adam Loewen a player who has yet to pitch double a ball in the Orioles organization, but handled the pressure of Wednesday like someone pitching game seven of the World Series. Loewen shared a laugh with Manager Ernie Whitt in the bottom of the first as the bases were loaded and the Americans on the verge of busting the game open. From there he delivered the pitch that would see the Americans retired on a double play ground ball and the Canadian avalanche was on. By the time Loewen left the game he had pitched three and two thirds of scoreless baseball, surely a welcome sign for his patrons in Baltimore and an announcement that he may soon be ready for the show.
On offence the Canadians hit singles, doubles, triples and even an inside the park home run on the way to their 8 runs, smart base running and lucky bounces and bobbles along the way paced them to the victory that puts them on the verge of advancing to the second round of the Baseball Classic.
For the Americans it was supposed to be a breeze, Dontrelle Willis, one of the best pitchers in baseball was up against a line up of Canadian lefties, something that should have worked in his favour. Instead he was batted around the field and his fielders, normally sure handed made careless errors to help Canada on to its lead.
The Canadians played on heart and desire, good fortune and good fundamentals for the most part. They were worthy of their win, if lucky a bit that the Americans could not get untracked earlier in the game. After a roller coaster of a game against the South Africans on Tuesday, Canada now moves on to a new challenge Mexico on Thursday night.
The plan was to have veteran Jeff Francis set to pitch the Mexicans in what they felt would be a must game, that strategy now may not just give the Canadians a chance to advance, but actually clinch a spot in the next round. By showing that they can come back from a surprise opponent and then deliver a few surprises of their own to a stronger team, the Canadians are in pretty good position to become the team to watch at the World Baseball Classic.
Something that probably not many people had given any thought about as recently as Monday night! If Canadian baseball fans were lukewarm to the WBC before today, the bandwagon is ready to roll; a win against Mexico on Thursday could find space at a premium as we all climb aboard!
With shock and surprise bouncing around American like a Stubby Clapp triple, we offer up a sample of the stories spreading the shocking news.
Sports Illustrated struggles with the surprise.
Sports Illustrated finds more to discuss
Sports Network (US) spreads the word
The Mercury News looks at Bud Selig's bad day
MLB hails Canada's play
MSNBC examines their stumbling pros
Fox News shares the bad news
ESPN examines the Woe delivered by Canada