With big league stars on both sides and national pride at stake, the United States and Canada gave their World Baseball Classic opener an October feel.
Adam Dunn and Brian McCann each hit a two-run homer, and Team USA held off feisty Canada, 6-5, yesterday in Toronto to avenge a surprising loss three years ago.
"This is a playoff atmosphere," U.S. pitcher Jake Peavy said. "Everything is on the line."
Kevin Youkilis added a solo shot and J.J. Putz closed it out in a nervous ninth inning for Team USA, which was upset by Canada in the inaugural WBC.
Former Oriole LaTroy Hawkins worked a scoreless inning for the win, and Putz earned the save after allowing Joey Votto's broken-bat RBI double in the ninth that cut it to 6-5 with one out. Putz then retired Justin Morneau on a grounder and got Jason Bay on a fly to right.
The U.S. can advance to the second round with a victory tonight against Venezuela.
Other WBC results: : Orioles third baseman Melvin Mora hit a solo home run and drove in three runs in Venezuela's 7-0 victory over Italy in Toronto. Mora finished 2-for-4 with a run scored. Cesar Izturis, the Orioles' new shortstop, also scored a run in the win. ... Missing an injured Alex Rodriguez and several other stars, the host Dominican Republic was upset by the Netherlands, 3-2. Former Oriole Sidney Ponson pitched four solid innings for the Netherlands, allowing two runs and five hits. Now, the Dominicans, considered contenders to win the 16-team tournament, are one defeat from elimination. The Netherlands won with only three hits - all infield singles. ... Ivan Rodriguez homered twice, Carlos Delgado also connected and host Puerto Rico beat Panama, 7-0. ... Ichiro Suzuki broke out of a slump as defending champion Japan trounced visiting South Korea, 14-2, in seven innings to advance to the second round.
Yankees: : Rather than allowing Alex Rodriguez to try to play with an injured right hip this season or sidelining the third baseman for four months with surgery to correct the problem, the team, Rodriguez and his doctors have discussed a limited operation before the season to repair the torn labrum without fixing the underlying condition, a person in baseball familiar with the deliberations told The New York Times. The limited surgery would probably sideline Rodriguez at least four weeks and might allow him to play most of the season. But he would still need a more involved procedure at a later time to fix what caused the tear.
Twins: : Right-hander Scott Baker has agreed to a four-year, $15.25 million deal. He went 11-4 with a 3.45 ERA in a career-best 28 starts last season.
Mets: : Ace Johan Santana, who was hindered last week by elbow tightness, threw 36 pitches in live batting practice, marking the first time he faced hitters since knee surgery in October.