Canada won't take US by surprise
After 2006 upset, Americans taking northern neighbors seriously
By Ed Eagle / MLB.com
While it wasn't quite a monumental upset on the scale of, say, Team USA's "Miracle on Ice" win over the Soviet hockey powerhouse in 1980 Winter Olympics, Team Canada's 8-6 win over the Americans in Phoenix was nonetheless shocking for baseball fans in both countries and around the world.
"I think we snuck up on them," said Team Canada first baseman Justin Morneau.
It's safe to say that won't happen again when the two teams face off on Saturday at 2 p.m. ET at Rogers Centre in the opener of Pool C of the 2009 Classic. The returning American players don't plan to play Goliath to the Canadians' David again.
"It's a situation now where each round is so short, you can't take any team lightly," said Derek Jeter, who will start at shortstop for Team USA on Saturday. "When you are playing baseball ... you run into one hot pitcher, then you're in trouble.
"Every team here is capable of winning."
Chipper Jones learned the hard way in 2006 what it meant to lose to his Canadian-born Braves teammates.
"I [had] two Team Canada guys on my club, so they let me hear about it all year," Chipper Jones said of Pete Orr and Chris Reitsma, neither of whom are with Atlanta today. "It's a little extra motivation for me."
In Team USA's previous Classic matchup against the Canadians, starter Dontrelle Willis was roughed up for five runs in 2 2/3 innings, and the Americans trailed by as many as eight runs at one point. After rallying for six runs in the fifth inning, the US offense wasn't able to do any further damage against the Team Canada bullpen.
"We didn't play well the whole [tournament]," said Team USA manager Davey Johnson. "So I think, mentally, everybody is more prepared for this year."
The player most responsible for keeping the Americans from once again falling into an early hole is starter Jake Peavy, who will face a strong Canadian lineup featuring Morneau, the 2006 American League MVP, former All-Stars Jason Bay and Russell Martin, productive veterans Matt Stairs and Corey Koskie, and up-and-coming slugger Joey Votto.
"They are running nine major baseball players out there, MVP candidates," said Peavy. "They're not going to sneak up on us. They played better than we did when we faced them last time."
Perhaps Team USA will face an even bigger challenge this time around from the Canadians. In addition to having 40,000 fans cheering them on at Rogers Centre, the Canadians' win in 2006 has provided them with the knowledge that they can compete -- and beat -- the best teams in the world.
"We take a little bit of confidence from that," said Morneau. "If you get a couple big hits, you can get a lot of momentum, and that can carry you through a game."
Peavy is determined to make sure that history doesn't repeat itself.
"We have the absolute utmost respect for the Canadians," Peavy said. "We know they wouldn't be on this team if they weren't good.
"But at the end of the day [Saturday], we're going to strap it on and see if we can't beat them."