This report has been corrected. See below.
A fierce brawl erupted in the ninth inning of a World Baseball Classic pool-play game Saturday in Phoenix after a bunt single by Canada appeared to infuriate players from Mexico, which eventually lost the game, 10-3.
Run differential is a main component in breaking ties after pool play, so it's not uncommon for teams to try to run up scores in WBC preliminary games.
Canada had a six-run lead when Chris Robinson bunted for a single off Mexico reliever Arnold Leon. Third baseman Luis Cruz, a starter last season for the Dodgers, fielded the bunt and appeared to tell Leon to hit the next batter as he returned the ball to the pitcher.
Leon then hit Canada's Rene Tosoni in the upper back with a fastball on the third pitch of the at-bat, ignoring a warning from the umpire after nearly hitting Tosoni with the first and pitches. As benches emptied, players gathered in the middle of the infield and several fights ensued.
“There's got to be another method other than the scoring runs, running up the score on the opposing team,” Canada Manager Ernie Whitt said. “There's professionalism that we're all accustomed to here in North America. And unfortunately teams are knocked out of the tournament because other teams run up the score on them. Unfortunately that's what you have to deal with when you have that type of format.”
Alfredo Aceves, a Red Sox pitcher, was one of the first players from Mexico to throw punches. He was eventually wrestled to the ground by Canada outfielder Tyson Gillies. Aceves was ejected along with teammates Oliver Perez, Eduardo Arredondo and Leon.
Canada left-handed pitcher Jay Johnson was also a main culprit, striking different players from Mexico before squaring off with Arredondo. Johnson was ejected along with teammates Pete Orr and Tosoni.
Fans from the pro-Mexico crowd pelted Canada players and coaches with debris, with one object striking pitching coach Denis Boucher in the face.
WBC officials said video would be reviewed to determine if further disciplinary action should be taken.
“It was just simply a misunderstanding,” Mexico Manager Rick Renteria said of the bunt and reaction to it. “In a normal setting, a normal professional setting I should say, a 9-3 bunt in that particular fashion would be kind of out of the ordinary.
“I think in just in the heat of the moment you lose sight of it and maybe that's how it occurred.”
For the record: An earlier version of this report said Mexico pitcher Arnold Leon hit Canada batter Rene Tonosi in the back with the second pitch of the at-bat. Leon hit Tonosi with the third pitch.