By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)
Philippines 000 311 030 8 12 1 Thailand 100 000 010 2 7 7
MARYVILLE, Tenn. – After taking a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the fourth inning, Thailand’s defence fell apart, giving up three runs to the Philippines in the fourth. The blue-and-red would cruise from there, advancing to face Chinese Taipei with an 8-2 victory.
Thailand, rated at No. 23 by the International Baseball Federation, struck quickly to open the first game in pool four of the World Baseball Classic. Nathan Lorentz singled to shortstop and advanced to second on a throwing error. Apichat Ngamying attempted to bunt him over, but popped out. The Philippines then had to deal with Johnny Damon, and elected to walk him with first base open.
Joseph Daru came up with the clutch hit, fighting off a 1-2 count to rip a single to left field and score Lorentz. The Philippines’ Jon Jon Robles escaped the jam, though, inducing a strike out and a ground out to end the inning.
The Philippines would set to work on erasing the deficit in the bottom of the opening frame. Devon Bryce Ramírez walked to lead off the inning, and the Tampa Bay Rays’ Chad Nacapoy followed with a single to right to advance him. Ryan Pineda, who finished with three hits, flew out to left, leaving cleanup hitter Leighton Pangilinan with two runners on base.
Pangilinan, who had a rough night at the dish, bounced a ball to third and Somsak Sarnwit grabbed it and stepped on third for the out. He could not get the hustling Pangilinan at first.
Andres Vázquez then loaded the bases when Somsak failed to pick up an out on Vázquez’s roller to third. Kamolphan Kanjanavisut went to a full count on Fernando Laurel, but buckled down to record the strikeout and hold the Philippines scoreless.
Both pitchers would settle down for the next two frames, but the fourth would prove trouble for Thailand. Vázquez walked to lead off the inning, and advanced to third when Laurel followed him with a single that exposed the Thai defence. Laurel knocked a ball to shallow left, and when it was not quickly wrapped up, Vázquez took off for third when he saw the base was unguarded. A late throw from the Thai shortstop was too late to get him and earned Adichat Wongchivit the error.
Things would unravel more from there, as the next batter, Alec Rosales, ripped a double to right center which scored Vázquez easily from third. Kamolphan balked home Laurel before earning two fly ball outs. With two outs and Rosales on third, Kamolphan then gave up a hit by Ramírez between shortstop and third to drive in a third run. Pineda flew out to right to end the frame and Kamolphan’s afternoon.
With Robles still cruising on the mound, the blue-and-red struck again an inning later. Vázquez reached second on a throwing error by Somsak, was balked to third, and scored on a long two-bagger to left by Laurel. Pipat Hongsrisuwan would then be bailed out of the jam by Somsak, who made a pair of solid plays at third to end the fifth.
Robles reach the Classic-enforced pitch limit with one out in the fifth and was relieved by Vladimir Eguia with Lorentz on first. Eguia took a few pitches to shake off the jitters, advancing Lorentz to second on a wild pitch and hitting Apichat.
Damon then stepped up to the plate, and the Philippine hurler greeted him with another pitch in the dirt to advance the runners one base. Eguia was then gifted with a double play when Damon blooped a ball to the second baseman, who tossed to the shortstop Pineda at second to catch Apichat off the bag.
The Philippines again struck for a run in the sixth, despite lacking a hit. The nine-hole hitter, Saxon Omandac was hit to start the frame, and after a hit by pitch and a walk, scored later in the inning on another error by Adichat.
Meanwhile, Darwin de la Calzada was just what Team Philippines needed, relieving Eguia and earning six outs on 17 pitches, whiffing a batter.
Both teams scored in the eighth, but it was the Philippines who put the game on ice with another three-run frame. Nacapoy led off with a single and was moved to second on a one-base hit by Pineda. After Pangilinan flew out, Vázquez came up big, ripping a two-run single. With Pipat still on the rubber, Laurel laced a single to center and Rosales reached on an error to score Vázquez with his third run of the contest.
The bottom of the frame saw Charlie Labrador enter for the Philippines and with one down, Apichat sliced a double into the right field corner to give Thailand their first hit since the fifth inning. With a seven-run lead, Labrador pitched to Damon, and induced another popout to second. After the big out, Labrador then walked Daru and gave up a RBI single to pinch hitter Sek Sitthikaew before getting out of the jam.
Thailand worked its way into and out of another jam in the ninth, as Somsak had his third throwing error of the game and Pineda stroked his third hit. Siraphop Nadee came in to finish the ninth and struck out Pangilinan on a full count.
Former San Francisco Giant Gino Espinelli saw action in the bottom of the frame, whiffing two Thai pinch hitters and earning a fly out to slam the door on the Philippines’ first-ever World Baseball Classic victory.
Robles earned the pitching decision with 4 1/3 strong innings, giving up an unearned run on five hits and a walk, striking out four. Eguia and de la Calzada each earned a hold. Kamolphan took the loss for Thailand, which had seven hits, including a pair by Lorentz. The Philippines were led by Laurel’s three hits and Pineda, who had a walk in addition to his three singles. Vázquez reached base in all five times to the plate, while Ramírez saw first base four times out of six trips to the dish. The blue-and-red had 12 hits in total, while the Thai defence had seven errors.
The 31st-ranked Philippines now face a tough task in the hosts and eighth-rated Chinese Taipei. The two will battle on Friday at 10:30 a.m. GMT for a place in the championship game. Thailand, meanwhile, will look to regroup against unranked New Zealand in a game which starts at 3:30 a.m. GMT on Friday.