Canada has some work to do after an ugly exhibition loss and the World Baseball Classic rapidly approaching.
With only two days remaining before Canada opens the tournament against Italy, a game that was supposed to be a tune-up turned into a mess.
Ryan Ludwick and Miguel Olivo each hit three-run homers as the Cincinnati Reds dominated Canada 12-2 on Wednesday.
Adam Loewen’s two-run homer was the only moment of optimism Canada could point to on an night that featured poor batting, defensive mistakes and weak pitching.
“I think everybody understands that while we take these games very seriously it is an exhibition game, and this is the time to get games like this out of our system,” said Loewen.
“I think once Friday rolls around and the weekend comes there’ll be a lot more adrenalin, it will be a totally different game, different feeling, so guys just want to stay healthy and feel good in these games.”
Plate discipline was key to Canada’s 7-4 win over the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday. Canada struck out just three times with 10 walks against the Brewers after opening training camp on Monday with plenty of laughs and a good atmosphere.
Against the Reds, Canada struck out 14 times, walked just four times and was outhit 18-4.
Problems on defence were also common, especially during a sloppy third inning. Miscommunication between outfielders led to a base hit and later a run, Pete Orr bobbled a grounder but recovered and Brett Lawrie was charged with an error on a routine play.
Lawrie left the game shortly after with discomfort in his side. Canada’s manager Ernie Whitt said the Toronto Blue Jays’ third baseman would be re-evaluated during Thursday’s team workout.
“We made some mistakes defensively, we didn’t swing the bats real well tonight ...,” said Whitt. “Mind you they had some pretty good arms out there throwing against us. But it was not a pretty game.”
While Cincinnati’s pitching looked effortless, Canada leaves the game with questions about its bullpen. Mark Hardy started the game but was charged with six runs on seven hits in 1 2/3 innings.
After an RBI single by Neftali Soto gave the Reds a 1-0 lead in the first inning, Canada responded in the second after Cincinnati starter Mat Latos walked Michael Saunders before watching Loewen curve one of his pitches over the left-centre field wall for a 2-1 Canada lead.
The celebration was soon over.
Hardy gave up a pair of RBIs to Miguel Olivo and Emmanuel Burris in the bottom of the inning. An RBI single by Zack Cozart put the Reds up 4-2 and ended Hardy’s night in favour of Blue Jays prospect Trystan Magnuson.
But on Magnuson’s first batter he gave up a three-run shot to Ludwick that gave Cincinnati a 7-2 lead. By the time the inning was over, every Reds batter had taken a swing at the plate.
In the third, confusion in the outfield between Tyson Gillies and Saunders allowed a ball to drop between them for a Chris Heisey single. That proved extra costly on the next at-bat, when Olivo hit yet another three-run homer off Magnuson, putting Cincinnati ahead by eight runs.
“Sometimes you have to tip your hat to the opposing pitcher,” said Whitt. “They threw well, they threw strikes. We just weren’t swinging the bats tonight. Compound that with some shoddy defence and that’s what happens.”
In little danger of giving up the lead, the Reds put seven new players on the field to start the fourth.
Canada’s pitching problem continued in the fourth. Jay Johnson loaded the bases then walked catcher Corky Miller to put Cincinnati up 11-2. Dustin Molleken started strong with two strikeouts in the fifth, but his RBI groundout to Derrick Robinson in the sixth made it a 10-run advantage for the Reds.
The game marked the debut of reliever R.J. Swindle, who arrived from Charleston, S.C., on Tuesday night after Jesse Crain pulled out with a shoulder injury. Swindle pitched 1 1/3 clean innings for Canada, and said he felt fine despite not being in game shape.
Swindle, who had to abruptly leave his wife with a newborn girl and a two-year-old daughter, was all smiles after the game.
“I didn’t expect to be here, obviously,” said Swindle. “I passed on it in ‘09 and regretted that decision a little bit because I thought I had the chance to make a big league team, and didn’t.
“Happy to be able to help them in Germany in the fall (qualifying round) and more excited to be here now.”
Notes: Attendance at Goodyear Ballpark was 5,012. It’s the Reds’ spring training home but there was plenty of cheering for the Canadians. ... Canada faces Mexico on Saturday and finishes the opening round against the United States on Sunday.