Team USA, looking to earn a spot in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China, defeated Canada 9-3 in its pool play opener at the 2006 Americas Olympic Qualifying Event in Havana, Cuba, on Saturday night.
Outfielder Skip Schumaker of the St. Louis Cardinals organization went 4-for-5 with three runs scored to back a strong pitching performance from starter Heath Phillips. A left-hander who had 13 victories for Charlotte in the Triple-A International League, Phillips allowed one run on five hits in six innings to pick up the win.
Phillips was perfect through the first three innings before Team Canada broke through. After a leadoff single to Stubby Clapp and a double to Kevin Nicholson, Ryan Radmanovich drove in a run with a sacrifice fly. Phillips settled down to retire Jeremy Ware on a strikeout and Pierre LaForrest on a ground out to end the threat.
Team USA jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in the first inning off Team Canada starter and former Major Leaguer Aaron Myette. Schumaker led off with a single and advanced to third on Mike Kinkade's one-out double. Consecutive walks to Bryan LaHair and Chad Allen plated the first U.S. run. A single by catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia scored Kinkade.
Schumaker got Team USA started again in the fifth with another leadoff single. After a walk to Bobby Hill, Kinkade delivered his second double of the game to score both runners and end Myette's day. LaHair walked again before reliever Brett Gray allowed a Chad Allen single that turned into two more runs for Team USA. Center fielder Sebastian Boucher threw wildly to third, scoring both Kinkade and LaHair to push the margin to 6-1.
Team USA closed the scoring with three runs in the eighth as LaHair plated two of those with a two-run double.
Phillips gave way to lefty reliever Jeff Ridgway in the seventh, who pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings. Lee Gronkiewicz and Henry Owens closed out the game for Team USA.
LaHair and Allen contributed two RBIs each in the victory but it was the 1-3 hitters in skipper Davey Johnson's lineup that got the offense going. Schumaker, Hill and Kinkade combined to go 7-for-12 with three RBIs and seven runs scored.
Team USA will continue pool play on Sunday when it faces Brazil at Stadium Latinoamericana.
Notes: The first official hurricane of the season, Ernesto, has been the talk of the tournament. A hurricane watch has been issued for Sunday in southeastern Cuba. ... Kinkade was a member of the 2000 Olympic Team that won a gold medal under the leadership of manager Tommy Lasorda. ... With no clubhouses at the ballpark in Havana, both Team USA and Team Canada dressed at the hotel. ... In other Pool B action: defending tournament champion Cuba 11, Ecuador 0; Mexico 2, Brazil 1; Panama 3, Dominican Republic 2. ... USA Baseball's National Team won the Gold Medal at the International University Sports Federation (FISU) World Championships earlier this month in Havana.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.