Diminutive Esteban Quiroz swatted a three-run homer to key a five-run second inning, a blast that got bigger as the night went on with Mexico holding on to top Venezuela, 11-9, Sunday in a marathon at Guadalajara's Estadio Charros. The win was Mexico's first in three games at the World Baseball Classic Pool D competition, and created a three-way tie for second with Venezuela and Italy at 1-2 apiece, behind Puerto Rico's perfect 3-0 mark. Mexico and Italy were first cited by a number of websites (including the WBC's) to be the teams advancing to a tiebreaker game Monday night, but a set of rules based on runs allowed gave Venezuela a slight nod over Mexico in that regard, thus creating an Italy-Venezuela tiebreaker instead.
After a scoreless first inning, Mexico opened the second with a five-run outburst off Venezuelan starter Yusmeiro Petit that gave his Verdes Grande counterpart, Luis Mendoza, a nice cushion. A Japhet Amador double scored Brandon Laird from second base and sent Alex Verdugo from first to third. After Efren Navarro walked, Cochito Cruz' sacrifice fly brought in Verdugo and Xorge Carrillo's flyout to right sent Amador to third, the 5'7" Quiroz (pictured) worked Petit into a full count before swinging his red bat to send the ball rocketing over the right field wall past the scoreboard to bring the score to 5-0.
Venezuela was able to get one run back in the bottom of the third as Robinson Chirinos scored from second on Martin Prado's line single up the middle off Mendoza. Neither team scored in the fourth but Brandon Laird detonated a three-run homer beyond the videoscreen in left center field off reliever Wil Ledezma in the top of the fifth to put Mexico up by an 8-1 count. Carlos Torres replaced Mendoza on the mound in the bottom of the frame after the latter allowed an Alcides Escobar double and was touched for three runs. Ender Inciarte doubled home Escobar, Martin Prado's ground-rule double drove Inciarte in and Miguel Cabrera singled in Prado to close the gap to 8-4.
An Adrian Gonzalez sacrifice fly brought Carrillo with Mexico's ninth run in the top of the sixth to make it 9-4, but Puerto Rico came back with a pair of runs on consecutive two-out singles by Chirinos and Altuve. Chris Roberson, who entered the game as a pinch-runner for Quiroz in the sixth and remained defensively in center field, stroked a two-run single in the top of the seventh to bring Mexico's lead back to five at 11-6. Sergio Romo came on in relief in the bottom of the seventh and lasted long enough to record an out among three runs, four hits (including a two-run Victor Martinez homer) and a walk before being pulled for Jake Sanchez, who got the final two outs without further damage, but the host team's advantage had been whittled to 11-9.
Robert Suarez and Jose Alvarez held the Mexicans scoreless in the eighth and Sanchez came back out for the bottom of the entrada long enough to walk Cabrera on five pitches (with some batters, one can never be too careful), then was replaced on the hill by Oliver Perez. Perez got Carlos Gonzalez to ground to Adrian Gonzalez at first for an unassisted double play, then went seven pitches into the count with Martinez, who lined out to Navarro in left field for the final out.
Alvarez then battled to hold Mexico scoreless for a second straight inning in the ninth and after Perez coaxed Rougned Odor to dribble a comebacker to the mound for the first out, Roberto Osuna, who suffered a collapse of epic proportions against Italy Thursday, was sent out by manager Edgar Gonzalez with the game on the line once more. Osuna's first pitch was drilled for a single to left by Escobar and Inciarte walked
on a full count to put the tying run on base. The normally placid Gonzalez sprang from the dugout to argue the fourth ball with home plate umpire Quinn Wolcott, earning an early shower. Osuna went on to srike out Chirinos swinging on four pitches and getting Altuve to sky a 1-2 delivery to Alex Verdugo in right for the game's final out.
Mendoza earned the win for Mexico and Osuna got the save while Petit absorbed the loss for Venezuela. Amador went 3-for-5 for the winners while Laird scored twice and drove in three runs, but it was the bat of leadoff hitter Quiroz that set the early pace before he was replaced on the basepaths by Roberson. Quiroz went 2-for-3 with two runs and three ribbies in the slugfest, keeping his WBC batting average at .667 with two homers and five RBIs in three games, two at second base and Sunday in right field. The two teams required four hours and 45 minutes to play nine innings, between the combined 20 runs, 30 hits, 11 walks and 13 pitching changes. The game ended shortly before 2:00AM local time.
Puerto Rico began Sunday's Pool D play by tripling up on Italy, 9-3, to finish the first round with a 3-0 record. Italy ended the round robin 1-2. Carlos Correa and Enrique Hernandez each had three of Puerto Rico's 13 hits. Correa, Francisco and Mike Aviles both scored twice, Correa's three RBIs were augmented by Hernandez' two.
John Andreoli's two-run homer in the first inning and Drew Butera's solo shot in the second accounted for all of Italy's scoring, as Alessandro Vaglio's pinch single was the only other hit off Jose Berrios and two Puerto Rican relievers. Berrios earned the win, pitching five innings and allowing three runs on two hits, while Luis Lugo took the loss for Italy after being scuffed up for four runs in 2.1 innings. A crowd of 11,924 spectators, the smallest in four days at Estadio Charros, was on hand to watch.