Italy sees its Classic dreams end
Unlike previous game, 'pen can't hold Venezuelan lineup at bay
Much like the earlier World Baseball Classic matchup between the two clubs, however, the Italian bullpen just couldn't find a way to contain Team Venezuela sluggers in a 10-1 loss that ended Italy's hope for a second successive stunning upset and a berth in the second round of the tournament.
On the heels of its victory to knock the host Canadians out of the Classic a night early, Team Italy got another outstanding performance from its starter. Adam Ottavino blanked the potent Venezuelan lineup on one hit -- a leadoff double by Endy Chavez in the first -- and one walk while fanning three in three innings.
"I was kind of nervous going on, but as soon as I threw the first strike, you know, I got more confident," said Ottavino, a first-round pick of the Cardinals in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft. "I think that confidence is the main thing that this will give me in the future, just knowing that I can hang with those guys."
Italian starters Mark DiFelice, Dan Serafini and Ottavino combined to allow just two runs in 10 innings during the club's 1-2 run in the 2009 Classic.
For reliever Tiago Da Silva, the sledding was much tougher in the fourth. After Miguel Cabrera doubled down the third-base line and advanced to third on Magglio Ordonez's infield single, Carlos Guillen lined a Da Silva pitch off the right-field wall to drive home the game's first run. When Ramon Hernandez's hard-hit grounder got under the glove of Italy shortstop Nick Punto for an error rather than an inning-ending double play, the Venezuelans had a 3-0 lead.
The Venezuelans put the game out of reach in the fifth inning, when Bobby Abreu and Miguel Cabrera hit back-to-back homers off reliever Kasey Olenberger, and Jose Lopez and Hernandez connected for consecutive long balls against B.J. LaMura. The four home runs were the most hit in an inning in the brief history of the World Baseball Classic.
"The way we've been swinging the bat lately, I knew sooner or later we were going to come through," Team Venezuela manager Luis Sojo said.
Punto was hit by a pitch in his right elbow in the sixth inning and replaced at shortstop in the top of the seventh. The severity of the Twins infielder's injury was not known immediately following the game.
"We took him out [and] didn't want him to make it worse at all," Team Italy manager Marco Mazzieri said. "But how serious is it, I don't know."
Both of Italy's losses came against the Venezuelans, who earned a spot in the second round of the Classic and will face Team USA in the Pool C finale on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. ET.
Despite their disappointing loss on Tuesday, the Italians were proud of the way they competed in arguably the toughest pool in the World Baseball Classic.
"Playing the way we played throughout the tournament is a victory for us," Mazzieri said. "And I think [we] really played up to [our] level, or even better, for our Italian players. And I think I couldn't ask for more.
"The effort was there. The energy was there, good baseball was there. I couldn't ask for more. I just want to thank these guys for all the effort. They've been outstanding."
Ed Eagle is an editorial producer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.