USA (with David Wright) to play Dominican Republic (and Robinson Cano) Thursday night
MIAMI -- The Subway Series won't start for another two months. In the meantime, pick your superhero.
Wright is hitting .438 (7-for-16) with a grand slam and a WBC record-tying 10 RBIs for the United States in its first four games. Cano has been virtually unstoppable at the plate, batting .632 (12-for-19) with four doubles and a pair of home runs.
When the two square off Thursday night at Marlins Park, the outcome will decide which team advances to the WBC semifinals, which begin Sunday in San Francisco. The other will have to fight its way out of the losers' bracket to secure the second bid from Miami's Pool 2.
"Sometimes I don't think New York realizes how lucky they are," U.S. manager Joe Torre said. "These two guys have lived up to their advance billing."
The one common thread here is a mutual respect, and for Wright and Cano, it has grown from playing against each other since the low minors, where they developed a friendship.
"You could always tell -- there was just something about him," Wright said of Cano. "Everything was just smooth and came so easy to him. I'm no scout, but he could just flat-out hit at every level. He's one of those guys who is well worth the price of admission to come watch him play."
Wright, who got paid this winter in signing an eight-year, $138-million deal with the Mets, seems to have attracted more attention during this WBC than he has during the last few frustrating seasons in Queens. Cano has noticed him lately, and Wright is one of the biggest hurdles standing in the Dominicans' way.
"He's been swinging so good," Cano said. "I'm so happy [because] he's a great man and a great guy."
Wright's teammates had a laugh with the whole Captain America nickname Wednesday morning at the team's breakfast meeting. Instead of the usual place setting with his name, Wright's card had his head superimposed on the costumed body of Captain America.
"They were having fun with it," Wright said. "I think they're about as tired of it as probably everybody else is. It's a cool superhero, so I'm thrilled about that, at least."
One person who hopes that Wright keeps his comic-book powers for another game is tonight's starter, R.A. Dickey, who didn't have his best knuckleball in the first-round loss to Mexico. As for the nickname, Dickey thinks it's a good fit, but added, "We don't have a shield for him or anything.
"I think he's stepping forward on a team full of superstars," Dickey said, "and kind of becoming that visual leader."
Cano, despite his own heroics, has plenty of support from a deep D.R. lineup that also features Jose Reyes in the leadoff spot. In charging back from a 4-0 deficit Tuesday to beat Italy, the Dominicans displayed a joy for the game that erupted into numerous on-field celebrations.
But Cano is a force behind the scenes, too. Dominican general manager Moises Alou described Wednesday how Cano has been like another coach in the clubhouse, a sort of unofficial captain himself, in the way he's been talking to teammates and speaking about the goals of this group.
As for the unique challenge that Dickey represents, Cano didn't sound too worried. He's 3-for-10 with a double, two walks and a strikeout against the knuckleballer. "I just do the same thing -- I go up there and swing," Cano said.
Puerto 4, Italy 3. Puerto Rico rallied from a 3-0 deficit to oust Italy last night. The Puerto Ricans went hitless in their first 12 at-bats with runners in scoring position but still overcame a 3-0 deficit to score once in the sixth and three times in the eighth.