We have now entered the win-or-go-home stage of the World Baseball Classic. Each team goes out there with its best pitcher and will do anything to move on. At LoanDepot Park on Friday night, Puerto Rico went with Marcus Stroman and Mexico went with Julio Urías, with the winner set to face Japan in the tournament semifinals.
Puerto Rico wasted no time getting runs on the board. With all of the action beginning on a Kiké Hernández walk, Nelson Velazquez singled which moved Kiké to 3rd. Emmanuel Rivera then hit a sac fly to drive in Hernández.
After it may have seemed that with an out that Julio Urías may have settled in, with a 1-2 count, Javier Baez hit a 367-foot homer to right field to extend the Puerto Rico lead. After a phenomenal World Baseball Classic appearance in 2017, Baez is doing even better here in 2023 by slashing .368/.368/.684/1.052 with one homer and six RBIs.
The fun didn’t end for Puerto Rico there. The next batter, Eddie Rosario also took Urías deep. This time, it was a more convincing home run at 409 feet and 102.0 MPH exit velocity. This gave team Rubio the 4-0 lead. In his third World Baseball Classic, Rosario is having his worst go at it, but it is the first time that Rosario has hit a homer in the tournament.
Urías would later on have no issues, but the damage was done. With four runs in the first inning, Mexico was tasked with coming back from a 4-0 deficient. Urías struck out four in his four innings of work and only walked one. The players that Urías struck out were Francisco Lindor (twice), Neftali Soto, and Martín Maldonado.
Julio Urías’ final line: 4.0 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 4 SO, 2 HR, 60 NP (7.00 ERA)
For Mexico, the first run of the game was scored thanks to Isaac Paredes, who hit a 104.7 MPH nuke that went 412 feet in the air. Paredes homer would be the farthest batted ball distance of the night, according to Baseball Savant. In his first WBC appearance, the Tampa Bay Ray is slashing .300/.391/.450/.841 with one home run and five RBIs through five games played so far in the tournament.
Puerto Rico’s starter Marcus Stroman rolled through the Mexico lineup after his second-inning hiccup. Struck out two and only allowed three hits until run number two scored for Mexico.
With a full count and only one out in the inning, Alex Verdugo smacked an RBI single that allowed Alek Thomas to score and cut the deficit to only down two runs. Stroman was immediately taken out of the game following the play.
Marcus Stroman’s final line: 4.1 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 SO, 1 HR, 68 NP (3.00 ERA)
After the Verdugo RBI, this game would turn into a relievers duel. Puerto Rico went with Yacksel Rios, who pitched 0.2 innings but got out of the jam that Stroman has left and Fernando Cruz who struck out two hitters in one inning of work.
For Mexico, the relievers may be the real MVPs of the game. Javier Assad went 2 2⁄3 innings and struck out four. Assad only allowed one hit in his appearance and kept Puerto Rico scoreless. The next reliever was Jo Jo Romero who also had a scoreless appearance and did not allow a hit through 14 pitches thrown.
Mexico’s seventh-inning rally
The seventh-inning magic hit Mexico as they took the lead and held on to that lead throughout the remainder of the game. It all began with an Austin Barnes double followed by two consecutive walks to load the bases. All of that came against Puerto Rico’s Alexis Díaz.
With the bases loaded and no outs in the inning, Puerto Rico went with lights-out Minnesota Twins reliever Jorge López. López was able to work a Joey Meneses pop fly and a Rowdy Tellez strikeout, but with two outs in the inning, the man who got Mexico their first run of the game, Isaac Paredes, hit an RBI single to drive in both Austin Barnes and Randy Arozarena to tie the game at four apiece.
With runners on the corners and two outs, Luis Urías—who had been struggling in the tournament—smacked an RBI single to drive in Alex Verdugo and take the lead. All of the runners that scored in the inning were charged to Diaz.
After the inning ended, Jo Jo Romero was kept in the game and worked got one out. After he walked MJ Melendez, Romero was taken out of the game in place of Jake Sánchez. The first batter that Sánchez faced was Emmanuel Rivera, who flew out to Randy Arozarena.
Randy’s catch may have been the play of the Classic considering what it meant for the outcome of the game and the amount of ground he had to cover (102 feet). He was running at 26.7 feet per second to make the grab.
This was easily the play of the game. #WorldBaseballClassic pic.twitter.com/JUSsN6Jycl— Kevin Barral (@kevin_barral) March 18, 2023
The ninth inning of drama
After the top of the eighth came to a close, Mexico went out quickly in the bottom half. That set up St. Louis Cardinals closer Giovanny Gallegos for the ninth inning.
With the Cardinals this past season, Gallegos had 14 saves, tying his career high. He has demonstrated that he can handle high-leverage moments in the MLB regular season, but what about in this environment?
First up at the plate was Christian Vázquez who singled. With no outs, Vimael Machín attempted a bunt that popped up in the air just enough for Gallegos to grab it off the fly and not only keep Vázquez at first, but get out number one.
Then, Martín Maldonado popped out to Joey Meneses for out number two.
Up to the plate next was the team's star Francisco Lindor, who wasn’t going to go down without a fight. With Puerto Rico down to their final out and Lindor on a 2-2 count, he singled to advance Vázquez to second and put the tying run in scoring position.
Kiké Hernández stepped up next and couldn’t keep the game alive. Gallegos struck him out looking.
For the first time ever, Mexico has advanced to the WBC semifinals. Their bullpen made it all possible by keeping Puerto Rico off the scoreboard after the initial first-inning explosion. That kept this game close enough for their offense to chip away little by little.
- Mexico’s win snaps Puerto Rico’s streak of making it to the WBC finals.
- Both Isaac Paredes and Luis Urías had two-hit games as did Francisco Lindor and Christian Vázquez.
- The only active Marlin included on either team’s roster, Anthony Maldonado (Puerto Rico), did not participate in this game. He ends his WBC with only one game played in which he struck out two hitters.
35,817 paid attendance for tonight’s Quarterfinal in Miami. #WorldBaseballClassic— Isaac Azout (@IsaacAzout) March 18, 2023
On Saturday, the United States and Venezuela play the final quarterfinal game to decide who will face Cuba in the semifinals. Lance Lynn will be the man on the mound for the United States while Martin Pérez starts for undefeated Venezuela.
Mexico will play Japan on Monday night in Miami. Winner moves on to the championship game.