After running the table with a perfect 3-0 record in Pool A first round play at the Baseball World Cup, the Mexican National Team is finding things tougher in the second round of the tournament. Mexico went 2-3 over the first five of seven Pool G contests in Italy, including a heartbreaking 1-0 loss to Taiwan Friday night in Verona.
In that one, both teams combined for just eight hits and the score was 0-0 going into the bottom of the tenth inning. Reliever Arturo Lopez was pulled with the bases loaded and one out in the tenth, and a wild pitch by incoming hurler Hector Navarro brought in the game-ending run by Chia-Hao Chang, who was the only Taiwanese baserunner to get past second base to that point. Mexican starter Oscar Rivera went 6.1 shutout innings, striking out 11 batters and allowing four hits. Lopez tossed 2.2 frames and gave up just one scratch single. Navarro shouldn’t bear all the blame for Mexico’s loss, though. The Grande Verde had runners in scoring position no less than four times, including a bases-loaded situation in the top of the tenth.
The second round started off with a thud last Sunday, as Japan beat Mexico, 9-3, in Parma. The game was tied 3-3 in the sixth inning before the Japanese reeled off six unanswered runs the rest of the way for the win. Cristian Presichi and Sergio Contreras each had two hits for Mexico, but Edgar Quintero was held hitless one day after exploding with a 5-for-5 day a the plate in a first-round win over Australia.
Mexico came back Monday with a 6-3 win over host nation Italy in Bologna. Centerfielder Ivan Terrazas led the way with three hits (including a homer), scoring two runs and collecting three RBIs. Shortstop Oscar Robles added three hits and two walks in five plate appearances. Arturo Lopez got the win in relief.
After rain washed out Tuesday’s action, Mexico fell to Canada, 4-2, Wednesday in Godo. Saul Soto whacked a two-run homer in the eighth inning, but it came too late as the Canadians had built up a 4-0 lead by then. Canada starter Nic Bucci was solid, holding Mexico scoreless on four hits before being relieved with one out in the fifth inning. Rafael Diaz took the loss for Mexico.
On Thursday, Mexico survived an upset bid by the Netherlands Antilles, who took an early 6-0 lead before succumbing to the Mexicans, 9-8, in San Marino. Mexico chipped away at their deficit with a solo homer from Edgar Quintero in the second inning, three runs in the fourth, and a big five-run sixth inning as Abel Martinez singled in two runs and Cristian Presichi doubled in two more to put Mexico in front, 9-7. Hugo Castellanos earned the win with 4.1 solid innings in relief of starter Francisco Cordoba.
Mexico was to wrap up the second round with games against the USA Saturday and Australia Sunday. Both are must-win games, as only the top four teams in Pool G will advance to the third and final round. The USA leads at 4-0, Australia and Taiwan are tied for second at 4-1, and Canada in fourth at 3-2. Mexico stands fifth at 2-3.