If you watched any of last night's MLB Network pre-game broadcast of Mexico's 5-2 upset win over the United States, you learned pretty quickly that Joe Torre and Team USA were "taking this seriously" and "want[ed] to win" and that "this year would be different." Then, RA Dickey took the mound, Mexico had a 2-0 lead by the time the game was four batters old, and they never had a reason to look back.
This is familiar territory for Team USA. In the 2006 WBC, they lost their second game to Canada by a score of 8-6 and had to advance to the second round on a tiebreaker. In 2009, they got plastered by Puerto Rico 11-1 in the first game of the second round, necessitating a trip through the loser's bracket on their way to the semifinals. This 2013 iteration of Team USA isn't eliminated from the tournament yet, but this loss all but assures that they'll need a tiebreaker to get through to the tournament's second round.
Mexico jumped out to that 2-0 lead in the first, but the big hit didn't come until the third. With Dickey still pitching, Adrian Gonzalez hit a two-run homer that gave Mexico a 4-0 lead that was never seriously threatened. Gonzalez — who also had an RBI groundout in the first inning — and Luis Cruz drove in all five of Mexico's runs, with Cruz hitting two sac flies that scored leadoff hitter Eduardo Arredondo both times. Yovani Gallardo started the game for Mexico and pitched well, but was on a 50-pitch leash in deference to the Brewers. That meant he came out after 3 1/3 innings with a 4-0 lead, two runners on base for the US, and plenty of time for a comeback. The six relievers that followed (deep breath: Luis Mendoza, Oliver Perez, Jose Cobos, Oscar Villarreal, Fernando Salas, Sergio Romo) him made sure that that didn't happen, though, and their performance turned the fact that Mexico didn't score after the fifth inning a moot point.
With Mexico's upset on the books, it's easy to see how Pool D could end up in a three-way tie at the top. Mexico is 1-1 with only a game against the weak Canadian squad tomorrow afternoon left on their schedule. Italy already has their two wins, and the US should be able to beat both Italy and Canada on Saturday and Sunday, early tournament results notwithstanding. Assuming that that all happens and that the US, Mexico, and Italy all finish 2-1, the tiebreaker between the three teams will be TQB in the games between them (meaning games against Canada won't count). Calculating TQB is an involved process, as we all learned in the Pool B tiebreaker last week, and I won't bore you with it here. What it comes down to is this: the United States needs to beat Italy by three runs or more tomorrow, or they won't advance.
This should not be a tall task. After their two upsets, Italy is sending Actual Italian Luca Panerati to the mound against tomorrow night to face the US. Panerati was last seen in America pitching at the Double-A level for the Reds in 2011. No disrespect to the surprising Italian team (who may end up getting screwed more than anyone by this US loss) or to Panerati, but if a lineup with Giancarlo Stanto and Ryan Braun and David Wright and Joe Mauer can't beat a team that's putting Luca Panerati on the mound by more than three runs, they deserve whatever they get.
That being said, the US was listless an unimpressive against Mexico tonight. Six of their eight hits came off of three bats (Jimmy Rollins, Wright, and Mauer all had two hits apiece). Nothing should be taken for granted by this team or by anyone rooting for them at this point. One thing is clear, though: unless Team USA can beat Italy by three runs or more Saturday night, things will be different in this World Baseball Classic. The second round will take place without the American team in it.