GUADALAJARA, México – In a World Baseball Classic filled with thrilling games, México held off a Venezuelan team that mounted repeated comebacks, winning a rollercoaster of matchup, 11-9. With the home crowd well aware of both the talent of Venezuela’s lineup, but also the consequences for advancement to the next round or qualifying for the next WBC, the result of every at bat had the potential to drastically affect México’s fate. After the final out, controversy reigned as México and Venezuela both believed they had advanced to a tiebreaker with Italy.
With Puerto Rico already qualified for Round Two, the victory by México left three teams tied for second at one win and two losses. The game was marred by a disagreement after the final pitch over which nations would play in a tiebreaker to determine which team advanced, as the WBC uses a modified version of run differential to select the two teams for a tie-breaking game. México’s manager, Édgar González, believed the win pitted his team against Italy for the right to advance, while Omar Vizquel’s Venezuelan side thought they would play.
For an explanation of the controversy and México’s official statement as voiced by Team Captain Adrián González, we had exclusive coverage of the 3:40 a.m. press conference here in Guadalajara. You can only view the full statement as spoken in English by González in our coverage, available here.
The game was an exceptionally exciting one, as the teams combined for 30 hits, 11 walks, 18 men left on base, but both teams went 1-2-3 in the opening inning. México broke the deadlock in a big way in the second, however, as the first four hitters reached base against Venezuela’s starter Yusmeiro Petit. Japhet Amador stroked a double to the right field corner for the first run, and Luís Cruz lifted a sacrifice fly for another. With the home fans cheering ecstatically, Esteban Quiroz gave them further reason to celebrate as he lifted a three-run homer to right field, and México was up 5-0.
Meanwhile, Luís Mendoza was sharp on the hill for México, allowing only a single run in the third on a Martín Prado RBI-single. Brandon Laird would launch another three-run tater in the fifth to make the margin 8-1, but México left runners on second and third in the frame.
Mendoza took the hill for the bottom of the inning and was greeted by double down the left field line by the hot-hitting Alcides Escobar, and México skipper Édgar González elected to go to the ‘pen. Carlos Torres entered, and promptly surrendered a two-bagger to Ender Inciarte. Three batters later, Prado hit the third double of the frame to score Inciarte. Miguel Cabrera added a third run, singling in Prado.
México kept pace with Venezuela’s legendary offence, answering their rally with a single run in the sixth on a sacrifice fly by Adrián González. Down 9-4, Venezuela kept hacking away at the lead, and added two runs in the bottom of the frame on RBI hits from Robinsón Chiriños and José Altuve. Luís Urías made a nice stop in the shortstop hole to snare Altuve’s hit, but the speedy Venezuelan was ruled safe in a debatable decision.
Both teams were at it again in the seventh. Dodgers’ prospect Alex Verdugo led off with a single, but José Castillo struck out the next two batters. Playing the matchups, Vizquel brought in Gregory Infante, who walked the next two batters and then gave up a two-run single to Chris Roberson.
The insurance runs proved vital as Venezuela launched its biggest rally in the bottom of the frame. Venezuela laid waste to ace reliever Sergio Romo, who had gotten the final out of the sixth. The first four batters hit safely, with the big blow a monstrous roundtripper by Víctor Martínez that plated Carlos González.
After three more hits, a third run would score when new pitcher Jake Sánchez hit the first batter he saw, Chiriños, but the A’s hurler induced a grounder from Altuve that Laird picked up at third and fired home for the out. With the bases still loaded, Sánchez then generated another bouncing ball to the infield, which Urías picked up, fired to Cruz at second, and on to first for the inning-ending double play. The speedy Altuve threw his helmet to third in frustration, and Adrián González waited on his middle infielders to praise them before they left the field.
Both teams put runners on first and second in the ninth, but the final score would remain 11-9 in México’s favour. The impressive victory over the relentless Venezuelans was celebrated with fireworks in green, white, and red, and the El Estadio de Charros stayed full as the home fans enjoyed the huge win. Incredibly, it was the first time the two clubs had faced in the WBC after roughly 70 years of regular continental, Amateur World Series, and World Cup competitions.
Amador had three of México’s 14 hits, while Esteban Quiroz and Alex Verdugo each had a hitting brace. Quiroz also scored twice, drove in three, and walked. Escobar was 4-for-5 to raise his WBC average to .462, and four other Venezuelans had two hits.
Venezuela used eight pitchers, with Petit taking the loss. Mendoza earned the win after tossing four innings, allowing two runs and scattering three hits and two walks, striking out a pair. Roberto Osuna made up for his Game One implosion by earning the save, though he did give up a hit and a walk in 2/3 of a frame.
Italy and Venezuela will tangle at 7 p.m. (2 a.m. GMT) today, with the winner advancing to the second round. México will be forced to qualify once more, though it swept through a qualifier on its home turf in 2016. Stay tuned for much more @extrainnings_bb.