(Reuters) - Team USA battled back to overcome Canada 9-4 on Sunday and advance to the second round of the World Baseball Classic in a do-or-die game at Chase Field in Phoenix.
Trailing 3-2 with two innings to play, the U.S. team scored three runs in the eighth on a booming two-run double into the left-center gap by Adam Jones and Shane Victorino’s RBI-single for a 5-3 lead.
After Canada, sparked earlier by a two-run homer from Michael Saunders, crept back to 5-4 with a run in their half of the eighth, the Americans put the elimination game out of reach with four more runs in the ninth on a run-scoring single by Jonathan Lucroy and a bases-clearing double from Eric Hosmer.
“Like Joe (U.S. manager Torre) said last night, it’s Game Seven,” Baltimore Orioles outfielder Jones said about their Pool D finale. “We came swinging the bats, just like Canada did.”
The victory allowed the U.S. (2-1) to join Italy into the second round to be played in Miami starting on Tuesday. Rounding out the foursome in the next stage will be Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic from Pool C.
Canada had also entered Sunday’s game with a 1-1 record after defeating Mexico 14-4 on Saturday in a game that was marred by a benches-clearing incident.
Earlier on Sunday, two-time defending champions Japan put themselves in the running for another title by hammering the Netherlands 16-4 at the Tokyo Dome to clinch a berth in the final round of the elite, 16-team tournament.
Japan, noted for pitching and defense, used a power surge for their victory over the Netherlands, who will play Cuba on Monday with the winner claiming the other semi-finals berth for the final round in San Francisco starting on March 17.
Takashi Toritani set the tone when he led off the game with a home run and the Japanese added five more roundtrippers to win in a game called after the seventh inning due to the mercy rule.
“Everyone thinks the Japanese team plays small baseball,” Japan manager Koji Yamamoto said after the power display capped by a grand slam home run from Hayato Sakamoto in the seventh.
Reporting by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes