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Saunders' blast leads Canadians past Brewers

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PHOENIX -- Michael Saunders is finally getting his chance to show off the power Canada was missing at the last World Baseball Classic.

Shoulder surgery meant Saunders had to watch from home as Canada's offence faded at the 2009 tournament. Now healthy and with the team, the Seattle Mariners outfielder hit Canada's lone home run in a 7-4 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers in an exhibition game Tuesday.

"I'm really excited. It's always fun to see the guys again," said Saunders, who said he welcomed the chance to make his WBC debut with the team he called "a little fraternity."

"Whether it's WBC or whatever, we feel like we all know each other, we feel like we haven't missed a beat and we have great team chemistry and that's something that's going to help us in this tournament," he added.

Canada used the game to start working out the kinks with opening-round play set to start Friday against Italy. Saunders said he was impressed with Canada's patience at the plate against the Brewers, with 10 walks and just three strikeouts.

"We're going to grind out at-bats for sure," said the Victoria native. "I think on paper we can compete with anybody. We're not coming in a powerhouse, however we're not a team to be forgotten about either."

A four-run eighth inning provided manager Ernie Whitt and his coaching staff reason to be optimistic moving forward.

Trailing 4-3, Canada loaded the bases before centre-fielder Tyson Gillies tied the game with an RBI single. Brewers reliever Michael Gonzalez then walked shortstop Jonathan Malo to score another run.

Canada added two more when Jimmy Van Ostrand scored second baseman Pete Orr, and Gillies made it 7-4 after touching home on a wild pitch from Gonzalez.

"I think they had good plate appearances and that's what we want," said Whitt. "Again, I look for the three through six hitters and the other guys filling in and doing what they can do to contribute. To me it's a pretty good team."

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 6, 2013 C6

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