When Mexico and Team USA take the field in Arizona Friday night, the Americans will take the field for the first time in the World Baseball Classic, looking to take home a win on their home field.
If Team USA wants to impress the home crowd and start off the WBC with a win, they must get out to a lead against Mexico and starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo.
Although Team USA is missing Mark Teixeira after he was injured on Wednesday, the American lineup is still one of the strongest in the tournament and needs to show up big in the first few innings.
Gallardo, under WBC rules, is only allowed to throw 65 pitches in his first start. This is bad news for the Milwaukee Brewers' ace, who struggles in early innings.
If players like Joe Mauer, David Wright and Ryan Braun can get some runs off Gallardo early, he might get pulled even earlier than that, especially with a nagging groin injury.
Besides the pitching, an early lead is a must for Team USA, especially when considering what they are going up against in Mexico's lineup.
While Los Angeles Dodgers slugger Adrian Gonzalez is the only "big name" in the lineup for Mexico, they'll still have a number of opportunities to score some runs.
Gonzalez already showed up big in Mexico's opening game against Italy. In Mexico's loss, Gonzalez went 2-2 with two walks and scored a run.
He is also a threat to go deep, hitting 18 homeruns last season in the MLB.
Mexico also has a number of strong options in the lineup, although many of them aren't MLB talent. Eduardo Arredondo, who has only ever played nine minor league games, still is a legitimate threat.
He went 2-3 against Italy, also taking a walk and scoring three runs.
Gonzalez's teammate in LA Luis Cruz also brings a solid bat to the lineup and drove in a run in Mexico's opener.
Later into the game, an early lead would come in handy for Team USA, who will have to face a solid bullpen from Mexico.
Closing for Mexico is up-and-coming Sergio Romo, currently with the San Francisco Giants. Although he gave up a late lead to Italy, he'll be looking to redeem himself, and he is certainly capable of shutting teams down in the eight or ninth.
Romo had 14 saves for the Giants last season, finishing the season with a 1.74 ERA, only walking 10 batters all season.
Setting up for Romo is Alfredo Aceves of the Boston Red Sox. Although Aceves had an up-and-down 2012, his fastball is capable of striking out almost anyone. He saved 25 games last season, although his ERA was a career-high 5.36.
As long as Team USA scores three or four runs in the first four innings, they will be in perfect position for R.A. Dickey and the rest of the pitching staff to lock down the game for their first victory of the tournament.
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