Early MLB picks for division winners, MVPs and more
It’s still spring training, but the MLB season is just around the corner. Steve Gardner and Ryan Lewis share their first picks for this season and why new rule changes could affect how you place your bets.
PHOENIX — Mark DeRosa didn’t leave Chase Field until 1 a.m. Monday, making calls, planning strategies.
He didn’t even fall asleep until 4am and was still trying to analyze what happened in their ugly loss to Mexico.
Well, 24 hours later, the USA manager is sleeping like a baby.
Team USA defeated Canada 12-1 in seven innings on Monday night and now needs a win over undermanned Colombia on Wednesday night to earn a ticket to Miami for the quarterfinals of the World Baseball Classic.
They are in full control of their own destiny without having to worry about tiebreakers, run differentials, or run quotients.
Beat Colombia and they’re in.
BIG MOMENT: Team Nicaragua’s Duque Hebbert signs deal with the Detroit Tigers after beating a trio of MLB stars
WORLD BASEBALL CLASSICS: Schedule, how to watch, betting information, countries and groups
It would have been different if Britain hadn’t shocked Colombia earlier in the day and averted the possibility that Team USA would have to beat Colombia by more than seven heats on Wednesday, but now all they have to do is win.
“We’re definitely in control,” said US captain Mike Trout. “Of course, when Great Britain won earlier, that helped us a bit. But we knew after the defeat [to Mexico]we had to push through and see what happens.”
Emerging relaxed and confident on Monday, they immediately went out and vented all of their pent-up frustrations in Canada while DeRosa got to sit back and watch.
“We came in with a little pride,” said Trout, whose triple homer in the first inning opened the game. “I find [the Mexico defeat] woke us up a bit. The message for us was: go out and bang, be ourselves.”
That night, DeRosa didn’t have to watch his pitching baton implode before his eyes and was helpless to do anything about it, as veteran starter Lance Lynn gave up just two hits in five dominant innings.
“What Lance did tonight was tremendous,” DeRosa said. “Great for us to reset the bullpen. It kind of went perfectly.”
There was no need to worry about which assists could pitch multiple innings, face multiple batsmen, or do a pitch count since only one assist had to be deployed in Miles Mikolas.
DeRosa just sat back and watched his team perform a laser show and take a 9-0 lead in the first inning over 19-year-old Canadian starter Mitch Bratt and never looked back.
“I think for the first few games we were just trying to feel ourselves,” Trout said. “But today we just came in with the attitude that we’re going to dominate.”
The game lasted just 2 hours and 20 minutes when the mercy rule was implemented in the seventh inning.
Really, it was exactly how DeRosa wrote the game.
“It starts and starts on the hill,” DeRosa said before the game. “It always does. It sets the tone. I just want to get to the top of the first team and have a chance to explode this offense. I think they are ready for that. I really do.”
Lynn pitched a 1-2-3 first inning and the lineup responded with: single, walk, walk, two-run double, sacrifice fly, walk, run-scoring single, groundout, run-scoring triple, and three-run -Homer.
It was a downright beating that showed the baseball world just how deadly their lineup can be, producing two doubles, two triples, two homers and a total of 22 bases.
“It should go out and dominate,” said US infielder Tim Anderson. “We did that throughout the lineup. When you’re in the lineup with so many guys, you don’t really have to do much. The whole goal really is to just pass the stick on.
And we just kept pouring it over her.”
Everyone on the starting lineup except outfielder Kyle Tucker produced at least one hit, led by Anderson and catcher JT Realmutos two hits.
Everyone in the lineup drove three RBIs in at least one run except Mookie Betts, led by Trouts.
Everyone in the lineup except Tucker and Realmuto scored at least one run, with five players scoring two runs.
Team USA has a day off on Tuesday and another on Thursday as they advance to the Quarterfinals.
Certainly the US has blemishes exposed in their ugly loss to Mexico. They don’t have any Cy Young winners on their team. And they could reach the quarterfinals against aces like Yu Darvish or Yoshinobu Yamamoto of Japan even if Shohei Ohtani is out; Sandy Alcantara from the Dominican Republic; Julio Urias from Mexico or Marcus Stroman from Puerto Rico.
There’s a reason USA aren’t favorites to win the tournament, but they’ve regained their confidence after Monday’s loss.
Who knows, they might even find another second baseman in the process? Anderson, the Chicago White Sox All-Star shortstop, was playing at second base for the first time in his pro career and looked like he’d played there his entire life.
“He wants the moment, he has an edge,” DeRosa said.
Anderson went 2-for-3 with a triple, RBI, two runs scored, a walk and a flawless defense.
“I’m always looking to prove something,” Anderson said, “just to be great. I just get the chance for the world to see what kind of athlete I am.”
The White Sox must have known his talent for a long time, but now that he’s on a global stage, everyone can see he’s among football’s greatest.
“As your career progresses,” says Lynn, his White Sox teammate, “you see guys who aren’t scared of moments. Tim Anderson is not afraid of anything.
“He went through a lot in his life to get where he is.
“And I don’t think anyone on the hill scares him at any point.”
TEAM USA: Full roster for 2023 World Baseball Classic
Now that USA are dominating like they expected all along, the entire team is echoing the same sentiments.
Her chartered team flight is scheduled for Thursday morning from Phoenix to Miami.
You intend to be there.
They may have pitching limitations, individual club requirements, or personal desires, but they just have too much talent to go home early.
“We’re going to find out,” DeRosa says. “It has to change. And no doubt that will change when we get on the plane to Miami.”
Follow Bob Nightengale on Twitter @Bnightgale.