The United States began its defense of the 2017 World Baseball Classic championship Saturday night, and got off to a good start in Group C play with a 6-2 win over Great Britain in the second of two WBC games at Chase Field.
Kyle Schwarber of the Philadelphia Phillies hit a three-run home run to right-center field in the bottom of the fourth inning for a 5-1 U.S. lead, and Team USA had at least one baserunner in every inning against an opponent with just two players on Major League Baseball rosters.
U.S. starting pitcher Adam Wainwright of the St. Louis Cardinals allowed a run on five hits over four innings, striking out four. Great Britain led 1-0 in the top of the first inning on a Trayce Thompson solo home run, but couldn’t keep the lead.
The U.S. bullpen allowed a run on three hits over five innings, with one from Tampa Bay’s Jason Adam, three innings from Kyle Freeland of the Colorado Rockies and a scoreless ninth from David Bednar of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
With an announced crowd of 39,650 at the Saturday night game, more than 68,000 fans combined attended the two WBC games in Phoenix.
“Talking to Waino (Wainwright) when he came out of the game, he’s like ‘man, this playoff atmosphere right here,’ and that’s what I tried to tell them for the guys that have never been in this,” U.S. manager Mark DeRosa said. “It gets it gets going pretty quick. The atmosphere is great.”
Arenado loves AZ
For years, Nolan Arenado went to spring training in Scottsdale with the Colorado Rockies. For years one of the top third basemen in the game and now a St. Louis Cardinal, Arenado has built up a .288 batting average at Chase Field, with 77 hits in 69 games in Phoenix.
On Saturday night, Arenado singled and doubled twice with a pair of runs batted in for the U.S. He also improved his low World Baseball Classic numbers, as he entered Saturday with a .161 batting average in eight WBC games.
“I really do believe in this tournament, I really do believe that it gets you ready for opening day, opening day’s not that hyped,” Arenado said. “Because you’re playing against all these teams out here. But I really love it. Like I said, I think if I could give any advice to young players, you’ve got to play in it.”
Not boos, ‘Moos’
USA outfielder Mookie Betts heard applause from many fans at Chase Field when announced, an audible “Mooo” instead of a “booo” coming from the crowd.
Though the Los Angeles Dodgers are a rival of the Arizona Diamondbacks, it appeared that fans either overlooked that or there were a good amount of Dodgers fans in the seats. Betts, catcher Will Smith and third base coach Dino Ebel heard the cheers when introduced before the game.
Former D-Backs check in
Paul Goldschmidt made another return to Chase Field since going to the St. Louis Cardinals, and the All-Star first baseman got his old walkup music played for him in his first at-bat. Goldschmidt was cheered and reached base four times, scoring three runs
“I’ve said this one of the best baseball experiences of my life, what I had ’17,” Goldschmidt said, referring to his 2017 WBC experience. “And because of how positive that was, how much fun I had, this is why I was only halfway joking said I begged to get on this team. I mean, I would have done anything. I had so much fun.’
Another former Diamondback, Thompson, is one of the most recognizable names on an otherwise minor-league or non-MLB roster. Thompson, now with the Dodgers, homered in his first at-bat of the game and doubled in his second. He spent 2020 and 2021 in the Diamondbacks’ system at Triple-A Reno.
A few fans used the game to dress up in costume, and some of the best ones included people dressed as Revolutionary War-era patriots, Uncle Sam or human U.S. flags.
Not to be outdone was a Great Britain fan in a front row seat behind home plated dressed as a lion, his face painted with the flag of England.
While Great Britain fans were roundly booed when showed on the Chase Field video board, the person who got the loudest cheer of the night was U.S. hitting coach Ken Griffey Jr., who starred for the Seattle Mariners in the 1990s.
Great Britain’s D’Shawn Knowles, of The Bahamas, tripled in the top of the seventh inning, sliding head first and celebrating by pretending to raise a cup of tea to his mouth with his pinky extended.
After Thompson homered, teammates decked him out in a cape and placed a crown on his head.
“I don’t think anybody was expecting that game to be that close, except us, you know, there was 30 men in that dugout, they knew that we were going to battle,” Great Britain manager Drew Spencer said. “And we did.”
This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Power hitter Kyle Schwarber, U.S team. too much for Great Britain in WBC win