In a must-win situation, the US turned to their team leader to get things going.
David Wright turned a 2-2 game into a four-run lead with a grand slam in the fifth, and the US never looked back in beating Italy, 6-2. After being down 2-0, it sure looked as if the US would be two and out, but alas, that was not the case.
Ryan Vogelsong of the world champion Giants (that's tough for me to type as a Dodger fan, but hey, I'm trying to be objective here, so go with it!) got he start. Like R.A. Dickey the night before, he immediately found himself in trouble. Nick Punto (Dodger property!) singled leading off, and after advancing to third with two outs, scored on a wild pitch.
Unlike the US has done for much of this tournament, Italy was able to make some noise with two outs. In the second, Tyler LaTorre singled and scored on Anthony Granato's RBI double over Adam Jones's head in center, making it 2-0.
That would be all the scoring Italy would do on this night, and it took until the fourth for the US to finally push a run across. Ryan Braun singled leading off, and cleanup hitter Joe Mauer's RBI double cut the deficit to 2-1.
Vogelsong struck out the side to end the fourth, and that set up a big fifth for the US. It all started on a walk, as Pac Man started the surge. Jonathan Lucroy, the #9 hitter, singled to put two on, and chasing Italy starter Marco Grifantini in the process.
After Jimmy Rollins popped up on a bad swing, Brandon Phillips lined an RBI single to tie the game at 2. With two outs, a walk to Mauer loaded 'em up for Wright, who deposited a 410 foot shot into left center to make it 6-2.
From there, Joe Torre turned the ball over to his bullpen, as the combination of Jeremy Affeldt (scoreless inning) and Ross Detwiler (four scoreless innings) allowed only two baserunners the rest of the way, striking out four. Detwiler picked up the save.
Needless to say, Wright's mighty swing relaxed everybody associated with the US, and allowed them to finally exhale as well. It's hard to accurately point out who the clear star on this team is (ala Joey Votto and Justin Morneau of Canada), but Wright seems to embrace that role. It's no surprise he does, as he's the clear leader of a Mets roster full of questionable talent to say the least.
This is the type of win that allowed the US to show how dominant they can be, from getting the big home run to shutting the game down in the final innings. Detwiler is a starter with the Nationals, so to be able to turn the ball over to him for multiple innings of relief is huge. Plus, only three pitchers were used, giving Torre plenty of arms for the finale against Canada on Sunday.
Speaking of Canada, they have to consider themselves very lucky that nobody is suspended for today's winner-take-all game. That was a pretty ugly brawl against Italy, with about the only positive that nobody got hurt (that we know of anyway). Hey, I love Luis Cruz, but that was just plain wrong of him to tell his pitcher to bean somebody. He's got to be smarter than that.
Anyway, Derek Holland will get the ball for the US today. He'll be opposed by young Jamison Taillon of the Pirates' organization, aka the guy drafted after Bryce Harper. With high stakes for both teams, it should be a fun one to watch.