No pressure for US in final Pool 2 game

Guthrie will start vs. Venezuela in contest to determine seeding

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MIAMI -- It's a curious contrast for Team USA. A day after playing for their tournament lives, the Americans have a game that means virtually nothing. Then the stakes get very big once again.

Pride will be on the line on Wednesday night, as will seeding and the championship of Pool 2 in the second round of the World Baseball Classic. But the USA's game against Venezuela at 7 p.m. ET will not determine who wins or loses the championship of the Classic. Both teams are advancing to the semifinals at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, regardless of the outcome. The final game in Pool 2 won't even determine who survives and advances to the next round. It's a climax and an anticlimax, all at once.

It's the next game, a semifinal matchup with Japan, Korea or Cuba, that will draw the world's eyes back to the United States team. Even the man charged with keeping Team USA's eyes on the prize right in front of them is already looking ahead.

"Tomorrow doesn't mean anything to us, because we're going out there [to Los Angeles]," said manager Davey Johnson. "And it's going to be Japan, Korea [and/or] Cuba and Venezuela. I don't know which of the first [three], but we need to be there. We play the best baseball around the world. The world is catching up with us, but we need to be there, and it's going to be a great event out there."

Jeremy Guthrie will get the start for the United States team, and he may be leaned on to go a bit deeper into the game than normal. He can't throw more than 85 pitches, per tournament rules. But there's a good chance he'll get right up to that limit, because the U.S. has leaned heavily on its bullpen the past two days.

"He's going six," Johnson quipped, "because I don't have any other relievers to come in behind him."

The game should be loose, and it should be fun. That will stand in contrast to the past two USA games, when the Americans had to win or else face a second successive early exit from the Classic. In 2006, the USA did not advance out of the second round of pool play to the knockout stage. That's where it will get heavy again.

"I think the pressure may be on some of the guys who were here the last time," first baseman Kevin Youkilis said. "I think all of us guys that it's the first go-round, we don't have pressure on us, because we weren't in their shoes. We're a different team, we go about it probably a different way than those guys did."

Matthew Leach is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.