The United States got a rude, unexpected wake-up call in its first game of the 2013 World Baseball Classic against Mexico.
Team USA, which is still the most talented group in Pool D on paper, put forth a lifeless effort in all phases of the game and finds itself on the ropes after losing by a final score of 5-2 at Chase Field Friday night in Phoenix.
Watching the game, it was clear right from the start that the United States was in trouble and Mexico was going to take advantage of the mistakes. Everything was working for the Mexican team, as the offense struck right away with two runs in the top of the first.
Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Yovani Gallardo, who started the game for Mexico, was masterful. He kept the United States off the board for the first three innings before yielding one run before being taken out in the bottom of the fourth.
R.A. Dickey, the defending National League Cy Young winner, had nothing working early and was battling just to make it through four innings.
Here is a look at what happened in the game, the standout players from each team, and a look ahead to Saturday's action.
Grades for Mexico
Starting Pitcher Yovani Gallardo
Before the World Baseball Classic started, all the talk was about how you would stop the offense for the United States. It turns out we all underestimated just how good Yovani Gallardo can be when he is on.
Gallardo certainly made the most of his 49 pitches on the mound. He threw 3.1 innings before coming out, giving up just two hits, one earned run and striking out four. He was masterful, mixing his fastball and offspeed pitches without leaving anything in the middle of the plate.
They say that good pitching will always beat good hitting. Who knows if that is really true, but on this night, Gallardo was certainly good enough to beat the United States.
Center Fielder Eduardo Arredondo
In order to have a great offense, you need a great leadoff hitter capable of setting the table for everyone in the lineup.
Arredondo was the star of the show for the Mexican offense, with the possible exception of the next person on the list. He ended the game going 3-for-5 and scoring two runs in giving his team a lead in the first inning that it would not relinquish.
First Baseman Adrian Gonzalez
There was a lot of talk last year about Adrian Gonzalez's severe power outage. He hit just 18 home runs and slugged .463 with Boston and Los Angeles in 2012, his lowest totals since 2005 when he played just 43 games with Texas.
It may have been just one game, but Gonzalez put that sweet swing to good use for the WBC. He launched a two-run home run in the top of the third that gave his team a 4-0 lead at the time. If he gets hot in this event, Mexico's offense could be very dangerous.
Grades for United States
Starting Pitcher R.A. Dickey
The risk of starting a knuckleball pitcher is you typically never know what you are going to get from that pitcher on a daily basis. Dickey was thought to be the exception to that rule since he was so dominant last season.
However, for whatever reason, on this night, Dickey just didn't have it. The velocity was still there, as the pitch consistently sat in the 75-80 mph range, but it simply did not have the movement like it normally does.
Dickey is the ace of the US staff, but allowed four earned runs on six hits with two strikeouts in four innings of work. He never looked comfortable and Team USA found itself in a hole right away.
Third Baseman David Wright
Even though the United States as a whole did not show much to get excited about, David Wright was the best player on the field for the team. The New York Mets third baseman drove in the first run of the game in the fourth, had two hits and played terrific defense at the hot corner.
With the loss, Team USA has a lot of work to do to get back in the mix for a berth in the second round. Don't blame Wright, as he more than held up his end of the bargainâ€”there just wasn't enough offense to go around to back him up.
Catcher J.P. Arencibia
On the list of people who had a bad day, Arencibia didn't even make it through the whole game. Some of that could be because the Toronto Blue Jays don't want him catching full games already, but judging by his appearances at the plate, manager Joe Torre didn't want to keep him in there at all.
Arencibia is not known for being a selective hitter at the plate. If we are being honest, he has some of the worst plate discipline in Major League Baseball. That held true Friday night, as Arencibia went 0-for-2 with two strikeouts before getting pulled in the seventh inning.
While Arencibia does have the power to drive the ball out of the park when he gets a hold of one, he doesn't do that enough to warrant an everyday spot in the lineup
Both teams will be back at it Saturday in Pool D action, as Mexico will take on Canada in a de-facto elimination game for the Canadians at 2:30 p.m. ET. Another loss and they are done, though, because of run-differential tiebreakers, they already have a steep hole to climb out of.
Meanwhile, the United States will try to get in the win column and keep its WBC hopes alive against the red-hot Italian team. Italy has won its first two games of Pool D. One more on Saturday, and it will lock up a berth in the second round.
The United States-Italy game will be broadcast on the MLB Network at 9 p.m. ET.