Canada and the USA will take the field for the first time at the World Baseball Classic Friday. Canada opens against the Italians, who stunned Mexico 6-5 in Group D play Thursday, while the Americans square off with Mexico.
Here are the odds and a quick preview for both matchups:
Canada at Italy (+192, 9.5)
About Canada: The Canadians received both good and bad news this week. The good news: 2010 NL MVP Joey Votto (Reds) will suit up for the red and white. The first baseman batted .556 for Canada in the 2009 WBC and will surely be a force in the middle of the lineup. The bad news: Third baseman Brett Lawrie (Blue Jays) suffered a rib strain during an exhibition game against the Reds on Wednesday and will miss the entire Classic. Canada will send RHP Shawn Hill (Tigers) to the mound for its opener.
About Italy: The Italians ousted Canada from the competition in 2009 with a 6-2 victory and enter their second game in this year's WBC with a ton of momentum after pulling off a huge upset over Mexico Thursday. Italy received some major contributions from its MLB players in the victory. Anthony Rizzo (Cubs) hit a two-run double off Mexico closer Sergio Romo (Giants) in the ninth inning and Drew Butera (Twins) came through with a two-run blast in the fourth frame to tie the game at 4-4. Closer Jason Grilli (Pirates) escaped a bases-loaded jam in the bottom half to help Italy hold off a late Mexico rally, but exceeded his 30-pitch limit in the process to make him ineligible until Saturday.
Mexico at USA (-260, 9)
About Mexico: Yovani Gallardo (Brewers) has elected to start for his country despite nursing a groin injury. It’s important to note the hard-throwing righty tends to quickly burn through pitches, which could make Friday’s start a short one. WBC rules hold pitchers to a 65-pitch limit in the first round of the competition. First baseman Adrian Gonzalez (Dodgers) solidified his place as the team’s undisputed leader with a strong offensive performance in the opener. Gonzalez went 2-for-2 with 2 RBIs and two walks in the loss to Italy. Ex-MLBer Jorge Cantu also did his part, driving in three runs.
About USA: The Americans have something to prove this year after coming up short in the previous two WBCs. The 2006 club failed to get out of the second round and the 2009 version was eliminated by Japan in the semis. Mark Teixeira (Yankees) sustained a wrist injury Tuesday while hitting balls off a tee and has been replaced by Eric Hosmer (Royals). The United States will send knuckleballer R.A. Dickey (Blue Jays) to the mound against Mexico.
Odds courtesy of Pinnacle Sports.