Mexico put an early end to the scenario in which both Canada and Mexico might have squeezed out the larger neighbor between them in Pool B of the World Baseball Classic.
Were three teams to end pool play with 2-1 records, the tiebreaker to determine which two of them advance would be fewest runs allowed in head-to-head play. That meant that the USA could have been eliminated–regardless of tomorrow’s seeming cakewalk against South Africa–if Mexico were to beat Canada today and if tit had scored two or fewer runs in doing so.*
Mexico ended that suspense in a hurry by getting out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning on a hit batsman and four (!) consecutive doubles (by Erubiel Durazo, Geronimo Gil, Luis A. Garcia, and Miguel Ojeda) off Jeff Francis. Mexico added two more in the second on yet another double (Luis C. Garcia) and a homer (by Jorge CantÃº)–all off Francis. Maybe Ernie Whitt stayed with his starter too long? Mke Myers is now in for Canada.
So, now, just over 24 hours after the high of beating USA, it is Canada that is looking at likely elimination, unless they can come back against Mexico. Don’t count them out, for once starter Esteban Loiaza is out of the game, Canada’s chance against the rest of the Mexican staff ought to improve. But Canada has its work cut out, for sure. Mexican pitchers allowed only two runs to the USA (and four to RSA).
If Canada loses to Mexico, they have to root for the South African team to upset USA tomorrow, or they are out. The Canadian players know the South African team is not to be taken lightly, as it nearly beat them earlier this week. South Africa then lost badly to Mexico and faces long odds now of escaping the WBC with even one win.
*Because that would have meant Canada’s pitchers allowed 7 or 8 runs and Mexico 2 or 3 in the head-to-head games among the three tied teams. The USA allowed 8 (and Canada owned the tiebreaker with USA on account of having won their matchup). These international baseball tiebreaker rules are pretty obscure!
UPDATE: Loiaza has been quite economical with his pitches. The limit on pitches thrown in a game in the first round is 65, and Loaiza managed to get through five innings on just 62, shutting out Canada.