Team USA advances behind big sixth

Iannetta, Pedroia, Youkilis deliver key hits vs. Venezuela's 'pen

Chris Iannetta, who contributed four RBIs, and Heath Bell celebrate Team USA's victory. (Elsa/Getty)

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TORONTO -- For the first five innings on Sunday, Team USA seemed destined for its second nail-biter in as many nights in the World Baseball Classic.

A big sixth inning allayed those concerns, however, as the U.S. used an eight-run outburst to blow past Team Venezuela, 15-6, before a crowd of 13,094 at Rogers Centre. The victory assured the Americans of a spot in the finals of Pool C and a ticket to the second round of the Classic next weekend in Miami.

Team USA first baseman Kevin Youkilis started the big rally by, of all things, striking out and reaching on a Victor Zambrano wild pitch. He scored the tying run at 3-3 three batters later when Zambrano walked Mark DeRosa with the bases loaded.

After catcher Chris Iannetta gave the U.S. some breathing room with a bases-clearing double, second baseman Dustin Pedroia opened up the floodgates with a two-run double down the third-base line.

"We had some huge hits at the right time to kind of blow the game open," Pedroia said. "It seemed like we strung a lot of at-bats together, quality at-bats. When you do that, you're going to score a lot of runs."

Youkilis capped off the sixth with a two-run home run off Venezuelan reliever Yoel Hernandez.

The U.S. tacked on five more runs over the final three frames, including solo home runs by Adam Dunn and Ryan Braun, whose shot down the left-field line in the ninth might have been challenged by instant replay if not for the lopsided score.

"That's kind of what I expected from the get-go," Dunn said. "With that lineup, I don't see why we shouldn't have a few of those [big] innings a night. It was a lot of fun, but I don't think it was very unexpected on our side."

The Venezuelan team, which features such big league All-Stars as Melvin Mora, Bobby Abreu, Miguel Cabrera, Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Guillen and Jose Lopez, could not overcome a bullpen that was touched up for 13 runs in five innings.

"You want the bullpen to execute, but that wasn't the case this time," Venezuelan manager Luis Sojo said.

The struggles of the Venezuelan bullpen wasted a solid outing by starter Armando Galarraga, who outpitched his better-known counterpart, Astros ace Roy Oswalt. The Tigers right-hander limited the Americans to two runs on five hits and one walk in four innings.

After Oswalt allowed three runs in 3 2/3 innings, six U.S. relievers combined to limit the powerful Venezuelans to three runs in the final 5 1/3 innings.

"I thought I threw pretty well the first two innings, then I kind of hit a wall," Oswalt said.

Thanks to their win on Sunday, the Americans no longer have the pressure of having to win to advance, but they don't plan on taking their foot of the gas Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. ET in the Pool C finale.

"You definitely don't want to have to win to get in," said Dunn. "There is a lot of pressure taken off. But we don't want to lose, either. We'll prepare and see what happens on Wednesday."

Ed Eagle is an editorial producer for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.