The United States is on the board.
David Wright’s fifth-inning grand slam sparked Team USA to a 6-2 win over Italy Saturday night, and has set the stage for a one-game showdown with Canada on Sunday to determine which team will advance with Italy to Round 2 of the 2013 World Baseball Classic.
The United States had fallen behind the Italians 2-0 by the second inning, resurrecting doubts and the fear of a repeat from Friday’s uninspiring 5-2 loss to Mexico.
Designated Hitter Joe Mauer belted an RBI double to left field in the fourth to slice the deficit in half. Second Baseman Brandon Phillips then tied the game with an RBI single in the fifth. With the bases loaded later in that inning, David Wright sent a Matt Torra offering into the left-center bleachers to give the U.S. its first lead of pool play, and one that they wouldn’t relinquish for the remainder of the contest.
American starter Ryan Vogelsong tossed 4.0 innings giving up 6 hits along with Italy’s 2 earned runs. Left hander Jeremy Affeldt pitched in an inning of no-hit relief in the fifth before handing the ball over to left-handed swing man Ross Detwiler for the final four innings of shutout work and a save.
Canada had beaten Mexico 10-3 earlier in the afternoon in a game marred by a ninth-inning benches clearing brawl.
The U.S. win officially eliminated Team Mexico from the tournament, and by the same token eliminated the potential that a tiebreaker system might decide which team moved on to Miami.
Now it all comes down to one game. The United States will send left-handed starter Derek Holland of the Texas Rangers to face a Canadian lineup featuring seven left-handed hitters. Canada will counter with rising star Jameson Taillon, who was taken second overall in the 2010 draft (one pick behind Bryce Harper, making him the highest drafted Canadian player in MLB history).