SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ. Johnny Damon and his U.S. teammates had a hard time figuring out exactly what needed to happen for the Americans to advance in the World Baseball Classic.
It was complicated - and all worked out fine for the U.S. team Thursday night when Mexico scored four runs in the top of the first inning against Canada.
"This tiebreaker stuff, you've got to go to school for it," Damon, the New York Yankees' latest addition, said in the Scottsdale Stadium dugout before a workout. "I thought there would be a clear-cut winner and a clear-cut loser. ... It's definitely a weird feeling."
After losing to Canada, 8-6, in a first-round game Wednesday night, Team USA's fate Thursday was in the hands of the Canadians and their next opponent, Mexico. Those teams played at Chase Field in Phoenix.
If the U.S. beats South Africa today, it will advance to the second round due to a complicated three-way tiebreaker based on runs allowed.
In this odd system, the United States would have been eliminated before it played South Africa if Mexico had beaten Canada by scores of 1-0, 2-0 or 2-1.
Mexico ended the suspense with four straight doubles off Canada starter Jeff Francis to take a 4-0 lead.
Roger Clemens is set to pitch for Team USA today at Scottsdale Stadium, though most players on the team wished they could play again Thursday and get a chance to bounce back from the demoralizing performance against Canada.
Manager Buck Martinez compared the feeling to losing a playoff game in October.
"It was almost worse," reliever Joe Nathan of the Minnesota Twins said. "It's like this feeling that you just let a whole lot of people down. I know for myself, I don't want to feel that way again."