Friday, November 11, 2016

Mexican Nationals split two-game series in Japan

Ramiro Pena went 2-for-5 with an RBI single and Esteban Quiroz (pictured) bashed a solo homer to lead the Mexican National Team to a 7-3 win over Samurai Japan Thursday night at the Tokyo Dome in the first of a two-game series between the two countries in a World Baseball Classic tuneup.

Mexican starter Jose Oyervides endured a forgettable first inning, walking four batters to give Japan a 1-0 lead.   Three innings later, Alex Verdugo's double brought Jesse Castillo home to knot the game up for Mexico.  Quiroz' fifth-inning longball brought the Mexicans into the lead, but Japan scored a run of their own in the bottom of the frame to make it a 2-2 game.

Mexico put two on the board in the sixth when Amadeo Zazueta's single drove in Agustin Murillo and Sebastian Valle later scored on an error.  The Samurai came to within 4-3 in the eighth on Seiya Suzuki's run-scoring double, but Mexico effectively put the game away with a three-run ninth as Valle, Efren Navarro and Pena (who drove in Valle) all crossed the plate to put the visitors up by four.  It was then left for Oliver Perez and Jake Sanchez to combine on a shutout inning to seal the deal for Edgar Gonzalez' squad.  Rafael Martin got the historic win in relief.  What made it "historic?"  I can't tell you.  Neither Mexican website where I looked up the tidbits of into used to cobble this piece together gave a reason why.

Japan did recover Friday night and registered an 11-4 win over the Big Green.  Mexican starter Hector Daniel Rodriguez got in trouble early by serving up back-to-back doubles to Shohei Ohtani and Sho Nakata to give the home team a 1-0 lead.  That touched off what would become a back-and-forth contest that saw Japhet Amador (who played for Japan's Rakuten Eagles last summer) sock a solo homer in the second frame while both Pena and Verdugo went deep in the fourth.

The Japanese opened things up with a three-run seventh and although a Tim Torres single brought Mexico to within 8-4, Japan put three more runs on the board, ending the scoring when Akira Nakamura whacked a late two-run homer off Sergio Romo to make it an 11-4 victory for the Samurai.

Samurai Japan will host The Netherlands National Team in two more WBC warmups Saturday and Sunday at the Big Egg.  The Mexican Nationals were scheduled to return to Los Angeles Friday night before returning to their individual points of origin.  Whatever made Thursday's win an historic one, you're doing pretty well to fly into Japan and split with the best team in the world (according to the latest World Baseball Softball Confederation rankings).  Mexico went into the trip rated eighth by the WBSC, but that could change.

Thanks to reader Chris Kabout of Amsterdam, Netherlands for links to info used in story.