PHOENIX -- Mexico was looking for redemption on Friday night at Chase Field after a tough opening loss to Italy in the World Baseball Classic. They got it against rival Team USA, which continued a pattern of futility against the Mexicans in international play.
Mexico first baseman Adrian Gonzalez hit a two-run, third-inning homer and had three RBIs off U.S. knuckleballer R.A. Dickey in a 5-2 victory. The game was played in front of 44,256 rowdy fans decidedly split in their loyalties.
"It is what it is," U.S. shortstop Jimmy Rollins said. "I wouldn't say [the outcome] was shocking. Actually, the crowd was pretty neutral. Their fans had a lot to cheer about. We didn't really give our crowd a chance to stand up. They had a lot of noisemakers, and playing winter ball, you get used to that. It brings up the atmosphere. But it was like a home game for them because they went out in front from the beginning."
Dickey's trademark knuckler wasn't dancing and sat flat in the zone. He didn't have it early as the 38-year old right-hander allowed a pair of runs in each of the first and third innings.
"It's obviously not the outcome you were looking for, and you have to arrest the damage as soon as possible," said Dickey, who pitched four innings, allowing the four runs on six hits. "I wasn't as sharp. I felt pretty good in the 'pen. Just the consistency wasn't as good as I would've hoped for. The home run is really what hurt us. I left one up and Adrian hit it."
The Gonzalez shot deep to right-center was reviewed and passed muster via instant replay. The other RBI for A-Gone came on a first-inning infield grounder.
The outcome sets up a crucial doubleheader on Saturday for the two teams at Chase Field. Mexico plays Canada at 2:30 p.m. ET and the U.S. faces a must-win game against 2-0 Italy at 9 p.m. Both games can be seen on MLB Network and ESPN Deportes.
Italy defeated Canada earlier on Saturday, 14-4, to take control of the pool.
"This is incredible. This is an amazing victory for Mexico," Gonzalez said. "The only thing is that we don't have a whole lot of time to enjoy it. We have to win tomorrow. And if there is no win tomorrow, then we don't go to Miami. And we have to win. We have to win."
The U.S. fell behind 4-0 and then 5-1 and was never really in the game. The Americans could manage only two hits and a run off Mexico right-hander Yovani Gallardo, who last week was nursing a right groin strain that made him questionable for the tournament. Gallardo struck out four over 3 1/3 innings.
When Rollins doubled with two outs in the seventh, it was his 12th hit in Classic play, the most by any American player. Ken Griffey Jr. and David Wright each have 11. The U.S. had just eight hits on the night against seven Mexico pitchers.
"I had no idea about that," Rollins said when asked about the Classic hits mark for an American. "Maybe that will change as other guys start catching up when we're in this thing long enough."
The U.S. has had trouble with Mexico over the years. In 2003, the Americans were knocked out of an Olympic qualifier by Mexico, and three years later they were bumped from the second round of the inaugural Classic. Both losses were by identical scores of 2-1.
In the first round of the Classic at Chase Field in 2006, the U.S. defeated Mexico, 2-0. The two teams were in different pools and did not play in the '09 Classic.
Gonzalez has been on all three Mexican teams in the Classic and remembers the exhilaration and disappointment. Mexico has made it into the second round both previous times, but hasn't gone beyond that. The U.S. hasn't finished any higher than fourth, with the Japanese winning the first two Classics.
"In 2006 when we beat them, we were out. I think that that put us in a position where we had nothing to lose," Gonzalez said. "This one, we're still in it. We had to win. And we came out to win and we played as close to a perfect game as can you play in baseball. Our pitching did an incredible job. We were able to get those timely hits.
"We just played the game right. And when you do that, you give yourself a great chance to win, and that's why we won. "