03/08/09 1:56 AM EST
USA powers its way over Canada
Youkilis, McCann, Dunn homer in opener of Pool C round
By Ed Eagle / MLB.com
The Americans, thanks in large part to three home runs and a solid performance by their bullpen, held off Team Canada in a 6-5 win before a overwhelmingly pro-Canadian crowd of 42,314 at Rogers Centre on Saturday to avenge a loss to their northern neighbors in the inaugural Classic.
"Well, we owed them a little payback," said Team USA manager Davey Johnson.
In what some players described as a postseason atmosphere, the two teams played a game that would not have been out of place in October and looked nothing like a typical March Spring Training affair.
U.S. catcher Brian McCann was one of the offensive stars, coming through with three RBIs, including a two-run homer off Team Canada starter Mike Johnson in the fourth inning that put the Americans ahead to stay.
"I went up there looking for something to hit, and luckily, I got something in the inner half, and I didn't miss it," said McCann, the team's No. 8 hitter. "I'll hit 12th in this lineup. I mean, it's an unbelievable lineup, just a great team to be part of."
American first baseman Kevin Youkilis hit a solo home run in the fourth inning for one of his three runs scored on the day. And after Team Canada pulled to within one run by scoring on U.S. reliever Joel Hanrahan's wild pitch in the top of the sixth, Team USA right fielder Adam Dunn briefly silenced the crowd of 42,314 with a two-run shot to right-center field in the bottom of the frame.
It's not a stretch to say Dunn probably felt like it was the biggest hit of his life.
"I've never been to the playoffs, but I imagine that this was a playoff atmosphere," said Dunn. "The crowd was electric. It was how baseball should be played. It was so much fun. If this is like the playoffs, then I have to be in the playoffs. This is incredible."
Team USA starter Jake Peavy allowed two runs on two hits and three walks, and he needed 58 pitches to get through three innings. One of the two hits Peavy allowed was Toronto native Joey Votto's towering home run to right field in the third inning that put the Canadians ahead, 2-1.
Six American relievers combined to limit the Canadians to five hits over the final six innings, including de facto closer J.J. Putz, who shook off a Votto RBI double in the ninth to retire All-Star Justin Morneau and Jason Bay for the final two outs of the game.
"In the ninth inning, if your blood wasn't boiling and your heart wasn't pounding, you don't have a heartbeat," said Dunn. "For me, this is the best experience I have ever had in baseball, and we've played only one game."
"I tell you, it was a heck of a ballgame," Johnson said. "This time of year, you know, everybody is not at their best, and I thought everybody played a heck of a ballgame.
"The hitting was there. The pitching was almost there, just a heck of a ballgame."
The Americans will next play on Sunday at 8 p.m. ET against Venezuela. Team Canada will play Italy on Monday at 6:30 p.m.
Ed Eagle is an editorial producer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.