Team USA dominant, tops Mesa, 10-2

October 30, 2007

By Conor Nicholl / MLB.com

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MESA, Ariz. -- It took several workouts and three games before Team USA put together a complete performance against an Arizona Fall League opponent. Helped by a seven-run fifth inning that featured a bench-clearing incident, Team USA rolled to a 10-2 victory over the Mesa Solar Sox on Tuesday night that squared their record against AFL foes at 2-2.

The national team will play two more games against Fall League opponents before heading to Taiwan for the IBAF World Cup from Nov. 6-18.

"Today was a turning point," said Devil Rays prospect and Team USA third baseman Evan Longoria.

Team USA's first three AFL games featured noticeable signs of rust from several pitchers and position players. Many hadn't seen playing time since the Minor League season ended early last September, and after three games, only three players had batting averages over .273. The pitching staff had a 5.54 ERA.

Against Mesa, Team USA looked like a juggernaut full of elite prospects and future stars that is expected to contend for the gold medal at the World Cup and at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

"The talent on this team is ridiculous," catcher Jason Jaramillo (Phillies) said.

Facing the team with the second-best record in the AFL, Team USA pounded out 13 hits and scored in double figures for the first time. Every starter who played at least half the game had at least one hit, with four collecting at least two. Jaramillo and Steve Pearce (Pirates) homered.

"We are new and a lot of us have been playing against each other, but as a team, you have to spend some time together and iron out some things," Jaramillo said. "There have been a couple of us that have been playing out in the Fall League, but I think the majority of us, if I am not mistaken, have been working out at home and just hanging out with our families. It was just a matter of time."

Starter Dallas Trahern (1-1), a Tigers prospect, combined with four relievers on a five-hitter.

Trahern tossed four solid innings against Mesa, which features 2007 Brewers first round draft pick Matt LaPorta and Cubs prospect Sam Fuld, who leads the AFL in hitting.

Trahern, who allowed four runs -- two earned -- and took the loss in Team USA's opener last week, looked more like the pitcher who went 13-6 with a 3.83 ERA at two Minor League level. He limited the Solar Sox to one run over four innings.

"It was good to get back on track after the first outing, so I was happy," Trahern said.

The 21-year-old right-hander didn't get much help until the fifth as Team USA managed just one hit in four innings against Cardinals prospect Mitchell Boggs. But the squad exploded against Luke Gregerson (Cardinals), Lincoln Holdzkom (Red Sox) and Josh Muecke (Astros).

Justin Ruggiano (Devil Rays) started the inning with a single to center. One out later, Jaramillo hit the national team's third homer when he blasted a pitch from Gregerson well over the right-center field fence.

"I was looking for a pitch to drive and really wasn't looking for a home run or anything like that," Jaramillo said. "It was just one of those things -- right pitch, right time, good swing."

Jayson Nix (Rockies) hit a ground-rule double and stole third base. Colby Rasmus (Cardinals) walked and Holdzkom, who hadn't allowed a run in two AFL innings, yielded a sacrifice fly to Pirates prospect Brian Bixler.

After pinch-hitter Evan Longoria (Devil Rays) walked and Dodgers prospect Delwyn Young chopped a single up the middle, Pearce also walked. Holdzkom went inside to Ruggiano, then hit him in the back with the next offering.

Visibly upset, Ruggiero threw his bat down and took a few steps down the first-base line. He and Holdzkom exchanged words and Ruggiano advanced toward the mound. Both benches and bullpens emptied before peace was restored.

Holdzkom, who also uncorked a wild pitch earlier in the inning, was replaced by Muecke, but Cubs prospect Tyler Colvin greeted him with a two-run single.

Conor Nicholl is an associate reporter for MLB.com.