Despite an uncharacteristically rocky start from Roy Oswalt, the United States gained passage to the next round of the World Baseball Classic with a 15-6 victory over Venezuela.
Oswalt went just 3.2 innings before running into the 70-pitch limit, giving up six hits, two walks, and three earned runs in the process. His counterpart, Armando Galarraga, fared a little better with a line of 5H, BB, 2ER in his four innings of work.
This game, however, was a testament to the importance of a solid bullpen.
Had Venezuela come to Toronto with their ideal complement of players, a Zambrano probably would have gotten the ball in the fifth inning, but it would not have been Victor. Carlos Zambrano and Johan Santana were both held out of the Classic, which forced the Venezuelans to fill out their pitching staff without younger, less experienced hurlers.
Victor Zambrano fared fine in his first inning against the powerful US lineup, but all four hitters he faced in the sixth inning scored, and the floodgates were opened. The US pushed eight runs across against Zambrano and three other Venezuelan relievers and scored in every remaining offensive frame.
The bullpen was much stronger for the US tonight than it was against team Canada, giving up just three runs in 5.1 innings, and that was the difference in the game.
Offensively, everyone got into the game for Team USA. Three more balls left the yard, courtesy of Adam Dunn, Kevin Youkilis, and Ryan Braun, but the majority of Team USA's damage was done by timely hitting.
Mark DeRosa drove in four runs on a triple, a bases-loaded walk, and a sacrifice fly, while Chris Iannetta got his four RBI with a bases-loaded double and a two-out single. Getting that kind of production from the seven and eight slots in the line up makes up for the poorer games from Chipper Jones and Dustin Pedroia, who went a combined 1-9.
Team USA now must wait for the winner of the Italy-Canada game to play Venezuela to find out who they will play to determine pool seeding, with Ted Lilly slated to start regardless of the opponent.
Hopefully this layoff will give Team USA a chance to recharge a nearly completely spent bullpen. However, now that they have made the second round, Brian Fuentes will join the squad and bolster the ragged relief corps.