World Baseball Classic
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Canada unable to pull off another upset

Votto, Russell homer, but club can't duplicate 2006 Classic success

TORONTO -- When Team Canada defeated the U.S. in the inaugural World Baseball Classic in 2006, it was clearly a case of an underdog defeating a prized champ.

Fast forward to this year's installment of the Classic, and things are not much different. Canada is still considered an underdog, while America is a favorite to win the tournament.

In Saturday's opener of Pool C action in the Toronto portion of the Classic, Canada came close to once again pulling off an upset over the American team before dropping an exciting 6-5 affair at Rogers Centre.

Playing on its home soil in front of 42,314 fans, Team Canada showed much fight throughout the entire game, eventually putting the tying run on second base in the bottom of the ninth inning before Jason Bay flied out to right field to end the intense affair.

"I'm proud of all my teammates," said Team Canada catcher Russell Martin. "We showed a lot of heart out there. You weren't expected to beat these guys, and we didn't end up beating them, but I think we gave them a run for their money.

"I think we earned their respect."

Canada opened the scoring in the first inning, when Martin walked and later scored on a Justin Morneau RBI groundout. Then, in the third inning, Joey Votto was able to give Canada a 2-1 lead when he tagged USA starter Jake Peavy for a mammoth home run into the second deck of the left-center-field stands. The solo shot was one of the Toronto-area native's four hits in the game.

The Americans stormed back against Canadian starter Mike Johnson in the fourth inning, when Kevin Youkilis launched a solo home run, and he was followed three batters later by Brian McCann, who smacked a two-run homer of his own to give the U.S. a 4-2 lead.

The Americans continued their power barrage in the sixth inning after Adam Dunn's two-run home run pushed the score to 6-3.

Despite the deficit, Canada did not quit. It made the game close on a solo homer from Martin in the seventh inning and an RBI double from Votto in the ninth, before U.S. reliever J.J. Putz induced Bay's fly ball to end the game. Though Canada did show much fight, the team was ultimately done in by its lack of production with men on base, going just 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

Despite the loss, Votto still thinks it was an important game for his countrymen, many of whom are first-timers in the Classic.

"I think it's very important to let the younger players know that we can stay head-to-head with a team of that caliber," Votto said.

Dustin Pedroia, second baseman for the U.S. squad, expressed admiration for the Canadians.

"Some of [our] guys didn't really know what to expect, but once we got out there, it was a playoff atmosphere," Pedroia said.

"All their guys, they play hard. They play the game the right way. All of them are tough. There's not a guy that's on that team that's going to quit, that's for sure."

David Singh is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.