Friday, March 18, 2016

Mexico crushes Nicaragua, 11-0, clinches WBC Qualifier final berth

Stephen Landazuri pitched four innings of one-hit shutout ball while Adrian Gonzalez scored twice and drove in another run as Mexico demolished Nicaragua, 11-0, in seven innings Friday night in Mexicali's Estadio B-Air.

The host team scored two runs each in the first and second innings, picked up five in the fourth and added two more tallies in the bottom of the sixth, triggering the WBC's ten-run mercy rule by giving Nicaragua one more opportunity in the top of the seventh before closing the book on the game.  Landazuri, who is 25-30 with a 4.62 ERA after six years in the Mariners system, was lights-out for Mexico.  The 24-year-old righty threw 30 strikes on 49 pitches and Jairo Beras' leadoff single in the fourth was the only safety Landazuri allowed, though he plunked a batter in each of the first three innings, so his control wasn't quite pinpoint.

Mexico scored the only run they'd need in the bottom of the first when, with the bases loaded, Nicaraguan first baseman made a throwing error on a Sebastian Elizalde grounder to plate Jose Aguilar from third with the only marker the Verde Grande would need.  One out later, Agustin Murillo's seeing-eye single to left brought in Gonzalez with his first plate-crossing of the night.

Mexico pushed two more across in the second.  Gonzalez' bases-loaded, two-out groundout allowed Alex Mejia to score.  Then pitcher Kevin Gadea uncorked a wild pitch to Jose Amador, giving the green light for Juan Perez to motor in from third to make it a 9-0 game.

Things got out of hand after Mexico scored five times in the fourth, with two coming in after Beras badly misplayed a Murillo fly ball, allowing both Gonzalez and Elizalde to score while Murillo ended up safe at second.  In the sixth, Murillo doubled in Walter Ibarra for one run while Leo Heras came in on a passed ball for another to cap the night's scoring.

Much of the damage to Nicaragua was self-inflicted with three errors, seven walks, two wild pitches and two hit batsmen to total five unearned runs as the Mexicans scored 11 times on just five hits.  Reliever Osman Gutierrez suffered the most, as three of the four runs that came in during his 2.2 frames were officially "not his fault."  Landazuri got the win and four relievers took part in the combined four-hit whitewash.

With the win, Mexico clinched a berth in Sunday's final.  Nicaragua, who beat Germany Thursday, will have to beat the Czech Republic in a loser-out game Saturday.  The Czechs handed the Flying Deutschmen their second straight loss, 15-3, Friday afternoon in eight innings as the mercy rule was invoked.  Catcher Martin Cervenka crashed a grand slam and ended the day with five ribbies.

In Panama City, Colombia clinched a spot in Sunday's final by beating host Panama, 6-3, and France knocked out Spain, 5-3.  Panama and France meet in Saturday's loser-out game.