PHOENIX -- R.A. Dickey described Chase Field as a "hostile environment" for Friday's game against Mexico. The Cy Young Award winner was referring to the raucous, flag-waving crowd, which made it clear from the opening pitch that this would not be a friendly place for Team USA.
The night only got worse from there.
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Mexico's leadoff hitter, Eduardo Arredondo, slapped Dickey's first knuckleball into centerfield for a hit and scored the first of two runs that inning, and Team USA never really fought back in a 5-2 opening loss that it might never recover from.
Because of the tournament's rules, and Italy off to a 2-0 start with Team USA scheduled for Saturday, Joe Torre's crew could win the next two and still be eliminated based on run differential if it doesn't put up a pair of blowouts and get help.
"These teams, they want to beat us," said David Wright, who went 2-for-4 with an RBI single. "No question there's kind of a bull's-eye on our back, and that's what happens when they pitch better than us, they hit better than us and play better defense. That's what happens -- you lose."
Dickey was a big reason for that. He allowed four runs and six hits in four innings, including a crushing two-run homer by Adrian Gonzalez with two outs in the third. That put USA in a 4-0 hole it couldn't climb out of.
"It looked like they were crowding the plate a little bit on me, maybe scooting up in the box, trying to catch before it breaks," Dickey said. "But I left a couple up that didn't have the finish that they normally have.
"It wasn't because I didn't try to make them have that finish. It's just the way the ball was reacting tonight. I know in a couple more weeks that finish is probably going to be there, and I hate that, because I felt like stepping into this that I was fully ready."
The Blue Jays probably are relieved to hear that. They traded three prospects to the Mets, including the highly regarded duo of catcher Travis d'Arnaud and pitcher Noah Syndergaard, for the right to sign Dickey to a two-year, $25-million extension (a total of $30 million with this season).
Obviously, Dickey throwing a dud on March 8 is hardly an accurate forecast for the year ahead. But this was a very uncharacteristic performance, and Dickey, who was on a 65-pitch count, was pulled after needing 62 for those four innings.
"He didn't seem like he was getting a lot of the swings-and- misses that he normally gets," Wright said. "I think he fell behind some hitters and they weren't missing in those hitter's counts. Now it's just like a Game 7. We need to win these next two, rebound and hopefully give R.A. another shot."
USA went 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position, and Giancarlo Stanton -- a pretty strong No. 7 hitter -- twice flied out to the warning track with men on base.
With two on in the sixth inning, Stanton drove a fly ball that traveled about 400 feet before being caught in centerfield. In the eighth, Stanton smacked another that Karim Garcia gloved with a snatch catch on the track.
"There's too much heart and there's too much class and there's too much ability in that room for one loss to change who they are," Torre said of his club's chances to recover. "So that's not a concern for me."