World Baseball Classic: Mexico Edges Puerto Rico 5-4, Earns Semifinal Berth vs. Japan

Manager Benji Gil of Team Mexico hugs Randy Arozarena after their team’s 5-4 win in the 2023 World Baseball Classic Quarterfinal game between Team Puerto Rico and Team Mexico at loanDepot Park on Friday, March 17, 2023 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/WBCI/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

By Matthew Tallarini
World Baseball Network

MIAMI- Mexico stunned Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic quarterfinals, coming back after being down four runs in top of the first inning to win 5-4. Mexico will play Japan in the semifinals on Monday at 7 p.m. in Miami on Fox Sports 1. 

Mexico starting pitcher Julio Urias looked vulnerable in the top of the first inning, as Puerto Rico’s got to him early when Emmanuel Rivera placed a sacrifice fly to right field and Enrique Hernandez came in to score for the first run of the game. The next batter, Javier Baez, drove a two-run home run over the right field wall, and Nelson Vasquez came in to score to take a 3-0 lead.  A few moments after, Eddie Rosario as the next batter unleashed a 409-foot solo home run solo home run to center field as Puerto Rico extended their lead to 4-0. 

In the bottom of the second inning, Mexico got one back when Isaac Paredes smacked a solo home run to left center for their first run of the game.  

After his rough first inning, Urias settled down and went four innings, allowing five hits, four earned runs, walking one batter, and striking out four before Mexico manager Benji Gil had to go to his bullpen. 

In the bottom of the fifth inning, Mexico cut the lead in half as Alex Verdugo singled on a fly ball to center field as Alek Thomas came in to score to make it 4-2.  

Puerto Rico starting pitcher Marcus Stroman went 4.1 innings, allowing five hits, two earned runs, walking one batter, and striking out two.  

During the bottom of the seventh inning, Alexis Diaz, Edwin Diaz’s brother, entered the game with “Narco” by Timmy Trumpet blaring in the stadium, hoping to hold the lead for Puerto Rico. Diaz let leadoff hitter Austin Barnes get on base start the rally for Mexico with a line drive double to left field, and after walking the last two batters he faced, Randy Arozarena and Alex Verdugo, Diaz came out of the game. 

Mexico rallied back when Isaac Paredes drove a line drive single to left field and Austin Barnes and Randy Arozarena came in to score to tie the game up at four. The next batter, Luis Urias, poked a single to right field scoring Alex Verdugo, and Mexico was up 5-4. 

During the top of the eighth inning, Puerto Rico nearly climbed back in the game when Rivera drove a fly ball to left field wall. Arozarena leaped and crashed in to the wall to make the catch as Puerto Rico’s MJ Melendez rounded second. The catch forced Melendez back to first and saved the possible tying run.  

In the top of the ninth inning, Giovanny Gallegos replaced Jake Sanchez for Mexico.  After Christian Vasquez singled to left field to lead off the inning, Vimael Machin looked to move the runner over to second base with a sacrifice bunt, but popped the ball up to Gallegos for the first out of the inning.  A few batters later, with two outs, Francisco Lindor lined a single to center field advancing Johneshwy Fargas in to scoring position. 

But then Gallegos got Hernandez to strike out looking for the final out of the game, and Mexico advanced to the semifinals to face Japan on Monday night. 

“Well, the most important thing, in my opinion, is that we are showing what Mexican players are capable of at the highest level. I wish this would continue to open doors,” Mexico manager Benji Gil said following the game. “Maybe before the tournament you could say, well, Mexico play Puerto Rico, could compete versus Team USA or Japan. The answer could have been, no. Some experts could have said no until now. 

 Gil is now two wins away from hoisting Mexico’s first ever World Baseball Classic championship, and if they can get past Japan on Monday, he’ll undoubtedly be under consideration for a managing job in Major League Baseball in the near future.  

“Until now, right now, we can say easily that Mexico can compete against any other team, at least this group of warriors can compete against any other team,” Gil said. “It’s a blessing to be able to be part and to have a little piece by guiding them, by leading them, as Mexican warriors.”

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