Nolan Arenado’s bat, glove spark Team USA in WBC opener

PHOENIX – Playing for Team USA again in the World Baseball Classic was out of the question for third baseman Nolan Arenado. After helping the US win the tournament in 2017, he was eager to defend that title.

He has started well.

The 31-year-old Arenado had three hits and several highlight-reel defensive plays in the team’s opening round win over Great Britain on Saturday night, 6-2. He struck the ball after the US fell behind 1-0.

Team USA manager Mark DeRosa said after the game, “The intensity with which he works pregame is honestly – I’m not sugarcoating it – like I’ve never seen.” “He’s brilliant at ground balls. He’s brilliant in his cage work.”

Arenado’s pregame routine was actually thrown off because of the length of Saturday’s previous contest between Colombia and Mexico. This is one of the things he learned while playing in the tournament in 2017. You have to be able to adjust on the fly.

“We were taking ground balls in the outfield today,” Arenado said. “I haven’t taken a ground ball into the outfield since I was in Little League. When I was doing it, I made sure to focus and do it the right way. It prepared me. I was ready to go. “

The same can be said of Arenado at the plate, after the team is unable to take batting practice on the field. He readjusted his routine, then a few hours later, he doubled the tying run in the second inning and scored the go-ahead run moments later.

He added another double and a single and threw several runs across his body toward first base.

“I’ve played with some great infielders,” said Arenado’s Cardinals teammate and Saturday’s starter Adam Wainwright. “I don’t know if I’ve ever played with anyone behind me. Just a special, special player that I don’t know if you can compare to.”

Even with Arenado’s heroics, it was a tight game until Kyle Schwarber hit a ball to right field for a three-run home run in the fourth inning. This ignited the pro-American crowd as Schwarber saluted it as it circled the bases.

“It’s going to be a small celebration for us this year,” Schwarber said. “Go back to give a little salute to our men and women too.”

DeRosa acknowledged that his players needed to settle a bit with playing in their first WBC game. They quickly found their footing, proving they are favorites coming out of the preliminary round game in Arizona.

After upsetting Colombia, the US will take on Mexico on Sunday.

“Just a great first day,” DeRosa said. “I just think for a lot of us, and coaches included, there was an opportunity for us to — I don’t want to say shut the cobwebs — but an opportunity for us to experience it (the intensity).” Ourselves.”

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