It was a tale of two exhibition games for Team USA. After losing 5-1 on Wednesday against the San Francisco Giants, the Americans put their full talent on display, shutting out the Los Angeles Angels en route to a 6-0 victory Thursday afternoon at Tempe Diablo Stadium in Arizona.
Trout Faces His Los Angeles Angels For the First Time
One storyline going into Thursday’s exhibition was USA captain Mike Trout getting the chance to face his Angels teammates while rocking the Team USA uniform. Although he went 0-2 at the plate with a walk and a couple of flyouts, both Team USA and the Angels almost found themselves in a scary situation.
After being hit by a pitch in Wednesday’s exhibition against the Giants, Angels manager Phil Nevin conveyed a message to his pitchers about facing Trout.
“I may have mentioned, ‘We’re not throwing anything in to him. At all,'” Nevin told reporters.
However, in his second pitch to Trout, Angels starting pitcher Tyler Anderson pitched him inside, nearly clipping his elbow guard.
Team USA manager Mark DeRosa nearly had a heart attack. He stared across the diamond and yelled toward Nevin:
“You’re going to let your pitcher pitch in on him?” DeRosa said. “I thought everything would be two-seamers down and away.”
“I threw him that pitch up and in, and thought, I probably shouldn’t do that,” Anderson said. “It’s better to feed it over and let do what he wants to do.”
The next pitch was a fastball over the middle of the plate and Trout nearly launched it out of the park, hitting it to the warning track for one of his two flyouts.
“We’re all like, ‘Whoa!,'” said team USA third baseman Nolan Arenado. “I don’t think they would have been happy if he had got hit, either. It would have been both teams not happy about it.”
However, Arenado almost certainly was happy to provide the offensive highlight of the game, hitting a grand slam in the 3rd inning and putting Team USA ahead of the Angels 4-0.
Coming up to bat with the bases loaded in the 3rd inning, Arenado wasn’t looking to swing for the fences.
“All I wanted to do was get that run in,” Arenado said. “There’s so many great hitters, we don’t have to do too much. We just have to pick each other up, play hard, and we’re going to be fine.”
Team USA’s Pitching Was Much Improved
If the offense was just fine, then the pitching in yesterday’s game was fantastic for Team USA. Starting pitcher Merrill Kelly faced the minimum through three innings, striking out four batters without allowing a walk. Overall, Team USA pitchers threw for six innings in this game, allowing only three hits and striking out seven batters. Angels pitchers relieved Team USA bullpen pitchers for the rest of the game.
“All in all, just a good game. I felt like they came together,” DeRosa said. “Everyone felt like they contributed, I love the way we played.”
Team USA begins pool play against Great Britain on Saturday at Chase Stadium in Phoenix, Arizona at 9:00 PM ET. Catch pitcher Adam Wainwright and the rest of the American squad as they begin their journey to repeat as World Baseball Classic champions on FOX.
If you want to get warmed up before the USA-GBR Pool C game, be sure to catch Team USA’s Sunday opponent, Mexico, take on Colombia in Phoenix at 2:30 PM ET on FOX to kick off competition in Pool C.
Another game to watch is the Pool D matchup featuring WBC favorite Dominican Republic and 2022 National League Cy Young Award winner Sandy Alcantara as they take on Jose Altuve and Venezuela in Miami at 7:00 PM ET on FS1.