By Leif Skodnick
World Baseball Network
Having clinched a spot in the Caribbean Series semifinals with a 7-0 win last night against Venezuela, Mexico came into Thursday’s game against Panama looking to improve to 5-1 and better their seeding for Thursday.
They narrowly got it done, with Jose Cardona seizing on an errant throw by Panama catcher Ivan Herrera to score the winning run, and the bullpen getting out of two significant jams to hold on to a 2-1 lead to the end of the game to clinch the top seed for Thursday’s semifinals and eliminating Panama.
Mexico got on the board in the bottom of the first when Reynaldo Rodriguez hit a sac fly to center that scored Irving Lopez.
Panama tied it at one in the top of the fourth when Johnny Santos doubled to center, scoring Jahdiel Santamaria.
In the bottom of the fifth, Cardona led off the inning for Mexico with a single and advanced to second on Irving Lopez’ bunt. Off to a great jump stealing third, Cardona scooted home when Panama catcher Ivan Herrera’s throw to third went into left field, giving Mexico a 2-0 lead.
Irving Machuca found himself in a jam in the top of the seventh. After coming in to pitch for Mexico with one out and a runner on first, he promptly walked his first batter, Michael Wielansky, on four pitches. Then Reynaldo Rodriguez couldn’t scoop Machuca’s pick-off attempt, allowing the runner on second, Joshwan Wright, to get to third. Wielansky then stole second, putting runners at first and second with one out. But Machuca induced a fly out by Ivan Herrera and another from Erasmo Caballero, and Mexico got out of the inning with no damage incurred.
An inning later, Panama loaded the bases with two outs, but Mexico reliever Luis Marquez got Rodrigo Orozco to hit a high foul pop behind first base that Rodriguez easily hauled in to end the threat.
Jake Sanchez came on to pitch the ninth inning for Mexico, retiring Panama in order to close out the win.
At 5-1, Mexico will finish no lower than tied for first in the round robin at the 2023 Caribbean Series and face Puerto Rico tomorrow at 2 p.m. ET at Estadio Forum in La Guaira. Panama, 2-4, will faceCuba at 9:30 a.m. ET at La Rinconada. All games of the 2023 Caribbean Series are streamed live via ESPN Deportes and ESPN+.