3/9/2013 2:49 A.M. ET
USA knows stakes are high against Italy
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
PHOENIX -- It's not as if the alarm needs to go off for Team USA, which is now in a must-win situation on Saturday night at Chase Field against a surprising team from Italy that is so far dominating the bracket.
Because the U.S. lost, 5-2, to Mexico on Friday night, it needs to defeat the 2-0 Italians if the Americans have any hope of moving on to the second round beginning Tuesday night at Marlins Park in Miami.
"If we won today, it would have been the same mindset: We need to win tomorrow," U.S. manager Joe Torre said after the game. "This is a postseason approach. You have to think about winning every day. But if you don't win one day, I mean, you shouldn't be in the tournament if it's going to get you down to the point of not thinking you can win.
"That's not a concern to me. We certainly were ready to go out there and win tonight. They just did a better job than we did."
Italy won earlier in the day, defeating Canada, 14-4, in a game that ended on the 10-run rule in the bottom of the eighth inning. By virtue of its wins already over Mexico and Canada, plus a big advantage in the run differential tiebreaker, Italy seems almost assured of emerging from the first round for the first time and moving on to Miami.
The Italians are throwing unheralded left-hander Luca Panerati against Giants right-hander Ryan Vogelsong, who most recently was 3-0 with a 1.09 ERA in four starts this past October as San Francisco won the World Series for the second time in three years.
On Saturday, Canada will play Mexico at 12:30 p.m. MT (2:30 p.m. ET) and Team USA will meet Italy at 7 p.m. MT (9 ET). The pool closes on Sunday here at 1 p.m. MT (3 ET) with Canada playing the U.S. in what could be a decisive contest. All the games will be broadcast nationally by MLB Network and ESPN Deportes.
"There's some interesting strategy in this tournament. It's a little unorthodox," Italian hitting coach Mike Piazza said. "We have to watch our pitching and then there's the run differential. We have some [pitchers] rested, who are going to be able to pitch tomorrow, but right now we're just going to let it all hang out and play a good game against the U.S. You see from one to nine, guys are really battling. It builds great unity and energy on the team."
Italy came from behind on Friday at Salt River Fields in the ninth inning, defeating Mexico, 6-5. The Mexicans came back from that disappointment to stymie the U.S., which has only been together since a team meeting on Sunday. The Italians have been practicing mostly out at Camelback Ranch for a week with Major Leaguers like Chris Denorfia and Jason Grilli joining the group as workouts were already in progress.
Piazza said that the unity has made a big difference to a team that didn't make it out of the first round in the initial two Classics, both won by the Japanese. The U.S. hasn't finished higher than fourth.
"That was essential, especially for our bench guys now," Piazza said. "We got some at-bats against some good pitching. The Dodgers were very gracious to let us work out there and we got some good work in. It forces you to get ready quick."
If the U.S. wins out, mostly likely they will move on to Miami, although a complicated run-differential formula would be used to break a three-way tie.
R.A. Dickey, who started and lost on Friday night, said the U.S. will be ready.
"You grieve this for the rest of the night, but when you come tomorrow you better be ready," said Dickey, who won a bronze medal at Atlanta in 1996 with the U.S. Olympic baseball team. "The beauty of a tournament like this is that if we take care of business the next two days we should advance and then it's a clean slate. So we're not going to get too down. It's part of the competition. We get it."
Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow@boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.