By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)
MARYVILLE, Tenn. – Colómbia scored five runs in the second inning and starting pitcher Sugar Ray Marimon shut down Nicaragua in an 8-1 World Baseball Classic victory. Colómbia’s bullpen tossed four scoreless innings and Giovanny Urshela and Steve Brown launched home runs to ensure Nicaragua would not stage a comeback.
Marimon started off the game with a nine-pitch first inning that included a strikeout to end the frame and sailed through the first three innings. His counterpart on the mound, the Seattle Mariners’ Erasmo Ramírez, was not nearly as poised.
After putting two runners on in the first, the Colómbian hitters gave Marimon all the support he would need in the second. Diover Ávila led off with a walk and, two batters later, Giovanny Urshela beat out an infield hit. Steve Brown, batting ninth, laced a single to center to drive in Ávila before Reynaldo Rodríguez was plunked to load the bases.
Édgar Rentería erased Rodríguez with a grounder to short, but Urshela touched home for the second run of the frame. With two outs, it looked like Ramírez might escape the mess, but the Washington Nationals’ Dónovan Solano had other plans.
Solano finished Ramírez’s night with a booming triple to the warning track in right field and then scored on an errant relay throw from the second baseman. Gustavo Martínez replaced Nicaragua’s top starter and got out of the inning on a ground ball.
Both clubs would launch four-baggers in the fourth inning. In the top of the frame, Cheslor Cuthbert reached Marimon for a home run to left, but Giovanny Urshela equalised off Martínez in the bottom of the inning.
After only 61 pitches but a 6-1 lead, Marimon exited after five strong innings. The Royals’ prospect, who advanced to Double-A in 2012, showed poise beyond his years while consistently throwing strikes. He scattered four hits and did not walk a batter, allowing only the homer. Five Nicaraguans went down swinging as Marimon earned the biggest win of his career.
In the sixth, Nicaragua got their first runner in scoring position, loading the bases with two outs against Luís Sierra, a top closer in Colómbia’s domestic league. Manager Eduardo Pérez went to the pen and the new hurler, Yesid Sálazar, slammed the door on the blue-and-white with a fly ball out.
After a walk by Luís Martínez, Brown launched a long drive to left for a two-run homer and a seven-run lead. Nicaragua would put two runners on in the ninth, but Ronald Ramírez and Oscar Meléndez teamed up for a scoreless frame.
Erasmo Ramírez, who had a 3.36 ERA and a WHIP of 1.00 in 59 innings this year, gave up four hits, two walks, and four runs, retiring only five batters. Six other hurlers finished off the game for Nicaragua, scattering five hits and three walks, striking out seven.
Cuthbert was the only Nicaraguan to collect a brace of hits, reaching base on a walk as well. Everth Cabrera, the lone major league hitter in the lineup, got to first via a walk and a safety in the game, as did Jem Argenal.
The bottom three in the Colómbian lineup did most of the damage for the winners, hitting .400 with a 1.500 OPS. Urshela and Brown both had two hits and scored twice, while the latter led the squad with three RBIs. Martínez walked twice.
Nicaragua will tangle with Panamá in a loser-goes-home contest on Sunday, Nov. 18 at 1 a.m. GMT. Colómbia advances to face Brazil, who shocked the home crowd with an incredible upset of Panamá on Thursday. Game time is 7 p.m. GMT on Saturday, Nov. 17.
Stay tuned to www.worldbaseballclassic.com for live video feed of all games.