As things stand ...
- Canada 1-0
- Colombia 1-0
- Mexico 1-1
- USA 1-1
- Great Britain 0-2
Mexico entered Sunday night's heavily anticipated game against USA with an 0-1 record in pool play thanks to an upset loss to Colombia. It wasn't necessarily a must-win game for Mexico, but the team sure played like it in dominating Team USA, 11-5. Sometimes a lopsided score can be misleading and we'll say something like "it was closer than it looked." That wasn't the case here. Mexico dominated USA in every facet, and, if anything, USA's late, last-gasp rally made it look much closer than it was through the rest of the game.
It was nearly a mercy rule situation, with Mexico running its lead to nine in the eighth inning and having two more runners on base before the inning ended.
Let's take a look at how it went down.
The game was played in Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks, in Phoenix, AZ. It was a capacity crowd of 47,534 as most of the crowd was pulling for Mexico. On the big moments for Mexico, of which there were many, the crowd was very loud. We'll call it raucous.
Joey Meneses of the Nationals debuted last season in the majors at age 30 after 10 seasons in the minors. In 56 games, he hit .324/.367/.563 (165 OPS+) with 14 doubles and 13 home runs in 222 at-bats. He was one of the more fun stories of the season, especially in a lost year for the Nationals.
Sunday, he announced his presence with authority to an international audience. Meneses hit a two-run homer in the first inning:
He then hit a three-run homer in the fourth inning to totally break the game open:
He also singled and scored in between the homers. Meneses wasn't the only offensive star for Mexico, as Rowdy Tellez was 3 for 5 with two RBI and Randy Arozarena was 3 for 5 with three runs and two RBI. Still, Meneses was hearing "MVP" chants from the pro-Mexico fans on hand in Chase Field. It was quite a performance.
Overall, Mexico outhit USA 15 to 8. Mexico had six hits with runners in scoring position while USA only had six at-bats with runners in scoring position and four of those came in the eighth inning after it was 11-2.
USA managed just two runs on four hits through seven innings. Kyle Tucker tripled and then scored on a Tim Anderson single in the second, Mike Trout's leadoff single was wasted in the sixth and Will Smith hit a solo home run in the seventh. Those were the four USA hits through seven innings. By the time USA hit in the eighth, it was trailing by nine runs.
Credit the Mexico pitching staff. Starter Patrick Sandoval allowed just two hits in his three innings of work, but the star on the mound was Javier Assad. The 25-year-old righty appeared in nine games for the Cubs last season, pitching to a 3.11 ERA (133 ERA+). He was brilliant in this one, pumping his velocity to the 97 range. He allowed just one hit in three scoreless innings, striking out two without issuing a walk.
Now, USA did mount a rally in the eighth inning, getting three runs to make the game look much closer than it should have. Bobby Witt had an RBI double and then Anderson drove home two with a double of his own before the thread was ended.
There weren't any charged errors to USA, but there were several plays where a tightened-up USA defense would have made a difference. Arozarena led off the game with an infield single, but Anderson bobbled the ball at shortstop before making the throw to first base. Mexico scored on three straight singles in the third inning, but every single one touched a US glove. Nolan Arenado got handcuffed on a hard grounder, Jeff McNeil couldn't haul in a blooper, and then Paul Goldschmidt couldn't handle McNeil's rushed and bounced throw to first base that could have ended the inning without a run scoring.
There was also some catcher-on-catcher (and teammate-on-teammate) crime. Austin Barnes, Smith's backup on the Dodgers, stole second for Mexico with Smith behind the plate for USA.
If USA ends in a tiebreaker situation after pool play, the tiebreakers are heavy on runs allowed and earned runs allowed. USA pitching giving up so many runs has the chance to haunt USA in the coming days. The culprits:
USA has never been eliminated in the pool-play round of the World Baseball Classic. Right now, USA and Mexico are both 1-1 while Colombia and Canada are 1-0 and Great Britain is 0-2.
As things stand ...
Smith hit one on the screws but right at the center fielder, so it's 11-5 going to the ninth.
Anderson doubles home two and it's 11-5 with two more runners in scoring position.
Kyle Tucker draws a two-out walk and the bases are loaded for Tim Anderson. It's 11-3 Mexico, but an extra-base hit would really make them sweat.
Alonso skies one and there are now two outs
It's very, very likely this is a case of "too little, too late," but Bobby Witt just doubled home a run and there are runners on second and third with one out for Pete Alonso.
A lineout ends the inning and it's 11-2 going to the bottom of the 8th. USA avoids the embarrassing mercy rule fate, but it has still be humiliated pretty much from start to finish here.
Mexico might mercy rule USA. Just a dominant performance.
Will Smith with a solo homer for USA. They'll need more baserunners before making this a game, though.
After the Trout single, Mexico pitcher Javier Assad got a Paul Goldschmidt pop out, a Nolan Arenado grounder and then struck out Pete Alonso. Assad -- a player in the mix for a Cubs rotation spot -- just threw three scoreless innings.
Mike Trout singles. Team USA really needs to get something going right now or this game is over. Maybe this is the start.
Through five innings, USA has the Tucker triple and Anderson single and that's it. A few balls have been hit hard at defenders, but overall there just isn't much going well for USA at all. There will surely be some level of focus on the lackluster pitching staff, but the offense hasn't done much of anything.
Here it is:
It's a three-run shot and Mexico has broken this thing wide open. Meneses is now 3 for 3 with two homers, five RBI and three runs scored.
Randy Arozarena with a two-out RBI double to right-center. The pitch was on the outer half and he went with it, punching a laser to the opposite field.
With two outs, Joey Meneses hit a hot shot down the third-base line and Nolan Arenado couldn't handle it. It was ruled a single. Rowdy Tellez then put a blooper into no-man's land. Then Isaac Paredes hit a grounder to the right side with the USA infield shifted completed to the left side. Jeff McNeil made a hell of an effort and his throw to first beat the runner, but Paul Goldschmidt was bobbling it and Paredes was ruled safe. Meneses scored and it's 3-1. That'll do it for USA starting pitcher Nick Martinez.
The three plays were ruled hits, but all three could have been converted into outs by the USA defense.
Tim Anderson singled home Tucker to get USA on the board.
Kyle Tucker with a one-out triple in the bottom of the second. Lots of ways to score him from there. And yeah, I fully admit it's a stretch to call one baserunner a rally.