Now, thanks to a fast finish, they’re heading to Miami for the next round of the World Baseball Classic.
Jones doubled in the tying and go-ahead runs in the eighth inning, Eric Hosmer hit a three-run double in the ninth and the U.S. scored seven times in the last two innings to beat Canada 9-4 on Sunday.
“Words can’t describe it,” Hosmer said, recalling how he felt standing on second base after his big hit. “It is hard to hold your emotions right there. It is just an unbelievable feeling and when you hear the crowd chant ‘USA’ and the other crowd chanting ‘Canada,’ it is an unbelievable experience.”
The winner of the game moved on, the loser went home. And for a long while, it didn’t look good for manager Joe Torre’s team.
“It would have been embarrassing,” second baseman Brandon Phillips said. “I would have been embarrassed. USA, this is where baseball started and we represent our country. I just feel that if we had lost, we didn’t do our job. We have to go out there and try to be the first American team to win the WBC. That is our goal.”
The U.S. trailed 3-2 after seven innings before rallying. Team USA and Italy each went 2-1 and advanced in Group D while Canada and Mexico went 1-2 and were eliminated.
“We believed in ourselves and turned it around,” Phillips said, “and that is a beautiful thing.”
Jones and Hosmer both had a rough week at the plate but came through with the United States on the brink of defeat. Jones’ hit was his second in nine at-bats. Hosmer, a late replacement on the U.S. roster for injured Matt Teixeira, was 3 for 13.
Torre said the U.S. lineup had too much talent not to finally come through.
“Those two balls that were hit, both Jones and Hosmer, were about as hard as you’ll ever see,” Torre said, “because I think both times the center fielder thought he had a shot at it, and he just had no chance. That ball just took off over their heads. They creamed those.”
Phillips, a three-time Gold Glove winner, also contributed. He made a diving stop to prevent Canada from tying it in the eighth, then doubled and scored in the ninth.
Heath Bell pitched a scoreless seventh for the win. Jimmy Henderson took the loss.
Canada’s Michael Saunders, of the Seattle Mariners, hit a two-run homer off starter Derek Holland and was chosen the Group D MVP, going 8 for 11 in the tournament with seven RBIs.
“It’s an honor,” Saunders said, “but it’s really kind of a sour taste in my mouth right now.”
Canada manager Ernie Whitt called Saunders “an up-and-coming outfielder that’s going to be a superstar.”
The United States won Group D, taking the tiebreaker thanks to its 6-2 victory over the Italian squad. The U.S. plays Group C runner-up Puerto Rico on Tuesday night in Miami. Italy faces the Dominican Republic, which went 3-0 to win Group C.
David Wright, whose grand slam lifted the U.S. past Italy on Saturday night, doubled and walked three times. Ben Zobrist had three hits, none of which left the infield.
Canada, coming off a 10-3 win over Mexico that featured a bruising ninth-inning brawl, finished 1-2. The Canadians have not made it out of the first round in any of the three WBCs.
They looked in great shape much of the afternoon against the United States, which was looking to avoid its worst showing ever in the tournament. The Americans made it to the second round in 2006 and the semifinals in 2009.
For the third straight game, the U.S. fell behind early.
Justin Morneau, 8 for 12 in the tournament for Canada, doubled to start the second, then Saunders hit Holland’s 1-0 pitch into the bullpen down the right-field line to make it 2-0.
The U.S. tied it with two runs in the fourth, one unearned.
Joe Mauer led off with a single and Wright walked. Zobrist put down a near-perfect bunt for a base hit, with third baseman Taylor Green throwing wildly to first and allowing a run to score. Jones’ sacrifice fly to center brought in the tying run.
Green, playing third for Canada because Brett Lawrie was hurt just before the WBC began, also had an error in the second when he dropped Zobrist’s high pop fly in the bright sunlight.
Canada regained the lead at 3-2 in the sixth. Joey Votto drew a leadoff walk from reliever Glen Perkins and went to second on Morneau’s single. Saunders struck out looking and Chris Robinson flied out, advancing the runner to third. Adam Loewen’s first-pitch single brought Votto home.
Mauer opened the eighth with a single, then Wright walked. Torre made an aggressive move when, with Willie Bloomquist pinch running for Mauer, he sent both runners on Henderson’s 1-2 pitch to Jones. Jones connected, bringing both runners home and the United States had the lead for good. Shane Victorino singled Jones home to make it 5-3.
Canada made it a one-run game in its half of the eighth but would have tied it had it not been for a spectacular defensive play by Phillips. His diving stop of Loewen’s bases-loaded grounder allowed one run to score, but kept the U.S. in the lead.
The U.S. broke it open against Scott Mathieson and closer John Axford in the ninth.
Phillips started it with a double. Jonathan Lucroy had an RBI single, then Wright walked once again. Axford came on and allowed an infield single to Zobrist. Jones struck out, but Hosmer cleared the bases with a shot to deep center.
Torre benched Miami’s dynamic young slugger Giancarlo Stanton in favor of Victorino in left field. He also moved Ryan Braun to designated hitter and put Zobrist in right. Mauer, the DH in the first two games, was the starting catcher. Stanton was hitless in the first two games, although he did have a pair of deep fly balls in the opening loss to Mexico.