Early MLB picks for division winners, MVPs and more
It’ still spring training, but the MLB season is almost here. Steve Gardner and Ryan Lewis give their early picks for this season, and explain why new rule changes could affect how you place your bets.
PHOENIX — Mark DeRosa didn’t leave Chase Field until 1 in the morning Monday, making calls, plotting strategies.
He didn’t even fall asleep until 4 in the morning, still trying to dissect just what happened in their ugly loss to Mexico.
Well, 24 hours later, the USA manager is going to sleep like a baby.
Team USA obliterated Canada, 12-1, in seven innings on Monday night, and now need a victory Wednesday night over undermanned Colombia for a ticket to Miami for the quarterfinals of the World Baseball Classic.
They are in full control of their own fate with no need to worry about any tiebreakers, run differentials or run quotients.
Beat Colombia, and they’re in.
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It would have been different if Great Britain didn’t shock Colombia earlier in the day, averting the possibility that Team USA might have to defeat Colombia by more than seven runs Wednesday, but now, all they have to do is win.
“We’re definitely in control,’’ USA captain Mike Trout said. “Obviously when Great Britain won earlier, it kind of helped us out a little bit. But we knew after the loss [to Mexico], we had to win out, and see what happens.’’
They showed up Monday relaxed, confident, and promptly went out and took all of their pent-up frustrations out on Canada, while DeRosa could sit back and watch.
“We came in with a little swagger,’’ said Trout, whose three-run homer in the first inning broke the game open. “I think [the Mexico defeat] woke us up a little bit. The message for us was go out there and bang, be ourselves.’’
This night, there was no need for DeRosa to watch his pitching staff implode in front of his eyes, and helpless to do anything about it, with veteran starter Lance Lynn giving up just two hits in five dominant innings.
“What Lance did tonight was huge,’’ DeRosa said. “Huge for us to kind of reset the bullpen. It kind of went perfect.’’
There was no need to worry about what relievers could pitch multiple innings, face multiple batters, or a pitch count, needing to use only one reliever in Miles Mikolas.
DeRosa just sat back, and watched his team put on a laser show, jumping to a 9-0 first-inning lead off 19-year-old Canadian starter Mitch Bratt, and never looked back.
“I think the first couple of games we were just trying to feel ourselves,’’ Trout said. “But today we came in just with a mindset of we’re going to dominate.’’
The game lasted just 2 hours, 20 minutes, when the mercy rule was implemented in the seventh inning.
Really, it was just as DeRosa scripted the game.
“It begins and starts on the mound,’’ DeRosa said before the game. “It always does. It sets the tone. I just want to get in the top of the first with a chance for this offense to kind of explode. I think they’re ready to. I really do.’’
Lynn pitched a 1-2-3 first inning and the lineup responded by going: single, walk, walk, two-run double, sacrifice fly, walk, run-scoring single, groundout, run-scoring triple and three-run homer.
It was an outright thrashing, showing the baseball world just how lethal their lineup can be, producing two doubles, two triples, two homers and 22 total bases.
“It was to go out and dominate,’’ USA infielder Tim Anderson said. “That’s what we did all the way through the lineup. Being in the lineup with so many dudes, you ain’t really got to do too much. The whole goal is really to just pass the stick.
And we just kept pouring it on them.’’
Everyone in the starting lineup but outfielder Kyle Tucker produced at least one hit, led by Anderson and catcher J.T. Realmuto’s two hits.
Everyone in the lineup drove in at least one run but Mookie Betts, led by Trout’s three RBI.
Everyone in the lineup but Tucker and Realmuto scored at least one run, with five players scoring two runs.
Team USA will have a day off Tuesday, and another on Thursday if they advance to the quarterfinals.
Certainly, the U.S. has blemishes, which were exposed in their ugly loss to Mexico. They don’t have any Cy Young winners on their staff. And they could enter the quarterfinals facing such aces as Yu Darvish or Yoshinobu Yamamoto of Japan, even if Shohei Ohtani is skipped; Sandy Alcantara of the Dominican Republic; Julio Urias of Mexico or Marcus Stroman of Puerto Rico.
There’s a reason why the USA is not the favorites to win the tournament, but after their rout Monday, they’ve regained their confidence.
Who knows, they might have even found another second baseman in the process? Anderson, the Chicago White Sox‘s All-Star shortstop, played second base for the first time in his professional career, and looked like he played there his whole life.
“He wants the moment, he’s got an edge about him,’’ DeRosa said.
Anderson went 2-for-3 with a triple, RBI, two runs scored, a walk and flawless defense.
“I’m always out to prove something,’’ Anderson said, “just to be among some of the greats. I just get a chance for the world to see what kind of athlete I am.’’
The White Sox certainly have long known his talent, but now that he’s on a world-wide stage, everyone is seeing that he belongs among the greatest in the game.
“Over the course of your career,’’ says Lynn, his White Sox teammate, “you see guys that aren’t scared of moments. Tim Anderson isn’t scared of anything.
“He’s been through a lot in his lifetime to be where he’s at.
“And I don’t think anyone on the mound scares him at any time.’’
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Now, with USA dominating the way they anticipated all along, the entire team is echoing the same sentiments.
Their chartered team flight is scheduled Thursday morning from Phoenix to Miami.
They intend to be on it.
They may have pitching restrictions, individual club demands, or personal requests, but they’ve simply got too much talent to go home early.
“We’re going to figure it out,’’ DeRosa says. “It’s got to change. And no doubt it will change when we get on that plane to Miami.’’
Follow Bob Nightengale on Twitter @Bnightengale.