WBC: Canada Controls Own Destiny in Pool C with Shutout of Colombia

Otto Lopez touches home after hitting a home run for Canada versus Colombia
(Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

Canada 5, Colombia 0

PHOENIX, Mar. 14 — A 2-for-5 day from Otto Lopez with a triple and a three-run homer led Canada to a 5–0 victory over Colombia in Pool C of the World Baseball Classic Tuesday afternoon. What began as a pitchers’ duel between Canada right-hander Noah Skirrow and Colombia left-hander Adrian Almeida lasted into the ninth, when Lopez’s dinger extended Canada’s lead.

The game started with both pitchers stranding runners in scoring position. Second baseman Eduardo Julien led off the game with a single to center. With two outs, he stole second, but a strikeout by left fielder Jared Young left him stranded. Colombia had third baseman Gio Urshela reached on a one-out walk, but designated hitter Jorge Alfaro followed with an inning ending 6–4–3 double play groundout, erasing Urshela.

Both pitchers pitched a perfect second. The third saw each team put a runner on, but Canada stranded theirs and Colombia lost theirs on an inning-ending strikeout-caught stealing double play. Julien walked but was left on first, while Colombia center fielder Oscar Mercado singled to left and was wiped out by a strike-him-out-throw-him-out double play, with shortstop Dayan Frias as the whiff victim.

Canada Takes Lead, Colombia Keeps It Close

Canada broke through in the top of the fourth. A leadoff single to right field by designated hitter Tyler O’Neill set the table. He advanced to second when Young was hit by a pitch. After shortstop Otto Lopez struck out and third baseman Abraham Toro flied to center, catcher Bo Naylor dumped a single to right-center, scoring O’Neill for the first run of the game. Right fielder Owen Caissie left Young and Naylor stranded when he struck out, retiring the side.

Skirrow responded in the bottom of the fourth with a shutdown inning, although it initially did not appear that would be the result. Right fielder Harold Ramirez hit a leadoff single to left. After Urshela struck out, Alfaro grounded into a 4-6-3 double play.

Canada suffered a blow to their roster in the fourth inning, however. First baseman Freddie Freeman had to leave the game, being replaced in the bottom of the fourth defensively by Denzel Clarke. Later Team Canada announced that he left the game with discomfort in his hamstring. Manager Ernie Witt said he will probably not be on the roster Wednesday, but added that it would depend on what the doctor and what the Los Angeles Dodgers — Freeman’s professional club — say.

Adding to the Lead and Finishing the Job

Canada threatened again in the top of the fifth. A one-out double by Julien, followed by Clarke being plunked, put runners on first and second. A wild pitch advanced them to second and third, so Colombia intentionally walked O’Neill to get to Young. He hit a fly to center that was too shallow for anyone to tag up. That was a wasted opportunity as the second out was made. Lopez ended the inning with the runners stranded by grounding to third. Skirrow finished off his masterful start with another 1-2-3 inning in the bottom of the fifth, retiring Diaz and Rodriguez on flies to right and Herrera on a foul fly to right.

No further runners reached scoring position until the top of the eighth. Lopez led off with a triple to right. Strikeouts by Toro and Naylor made it appear that another runner in scoring position would be stranded. But a Caissie single to left plated Lopez to make it a 2–0 game. In the top of the ninth, Canada blew it open. Singles to left by O’Neill and center by Young brought up Lopez, who belted a three-run bomb to left-center to give Canada a commanding 5–0 lead.

Scoreless relief appearances by Trevor Brigden and Scott Mathieson slammed the door on Colombia, who now must defeat the United States Wednesday and wait for results of other games to see if they will advance to the second round. Canada, on the contrary, controls its own destiny, as a win over Mexico guarantees to send them to the quarterfinals.

Postgame Reflections

Colombia manager Jolbert Cabrera has seen his team, who shocked Mexico in its’ first game, play differently in its next two. “It’s not a secret,” he said. “Our offense is dead, practically. Today we only had one runner get to second base, and it was in the ninth inning. It’s difficult to win games if you’re not hitting, if you’re not swinging. And we didn’t swing at all today.” He added that his hitters are “streaky” and pointed out they only got back-to-back hits once. That came in the ninth inning, and from the eighth and ninth hitters, no less.

Canada manager Ernie Whitt, noting that “good pitching beats good hitting,” said his team’s pitching was “outstanding,” adding, “Noah did a great job, and then our bullpen did the rest.”

Canada is right where they expected to be for Wednesday’s game against Mexico. The Lopez home run especially helped, since it allowed Canada to save closer Matt Brash. Consequently, everyone on their pitching staff except Skirrow is available for the Mexico game.

Player Perspectives

Otto Lopez called his homer “number one of all the hits I’ve done.” He added, “Playing for Canada signifies everything for me. Since I have started — since the first day I was in Canada — they opened the doors for me. And I’m going to give everything I have to defend the team and put the team of Canada in the highest.”

Noah Skirrow said about his start, “I couldn’t ask for much more, really. I mean, went about as good as you could ask for it to go. Just trying to be as aggressive as I could and give us a chance to win and give us as much length as possible.” He added that his efficiency came from “mostly the heater. Slider was pretty good, and being able to mix in the curveball to avoid the ambush was kind of the game plan. Just try to keep them off balance. Use my strength rather than trying to pitch to their weaknesses.”

Looking Ahead

The result gives Colombia a 1–2 record in Pool C and makes Canada 2–1. With a win over Mexico Wednesday, Canada can make the quarterfinals without needing any help. Colombia has a tougher road ahead. They need to defeat USA to even have a chance at going through with the tiebreakers.

The Canada–Mexico game will be Wednesday at noon Arizona Time/3 pm Eastern Time, while the Colombia–USA game will be Wednesday night at 7 Arizona Time/10 Eastern Time.

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Evan M. Thompson, Editor-in-chief

Evan M. Thompson, Editor-in-chief

Evan is the owner and sole contributor of Thompson Talks, a website discussing the Big Four North American Pro Sports as well as soccer. He also is a credentialed member of the Colorado Rockies press corps. His first and biggest love is baseball.

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