Mexico mounted a methodical comeback against Puerto Rico in their quarterfinal of the World Baseball Classic on Friday evening and earned a spot in the semifinal with a taut 5-4 victory.
Puerto Rico barged to an early lead in the top of the first when Emmanuel Rivera plated Enrique Hernandez on a sac fly. Javier Báez grew that lead 3-0 when he homered off a 1-2 fastball from Mexico starting pitcher Julio Urías:
Javy is bringing the energy early in Miami! #WorldBaseballClassic pic.twitter.com/uBuTeDEd8f— MLB (@MLB) March 17, 2023
The next man up, Eddie Rosario, homered for the second time in this tournament to make it 4-0 in favor of Puerto Rico:
BACK TO BACK HOME RUNS ON CONSECUTIVE PITCHES!— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) March 17, 2023
This time it was Eddie Rosario!! 🇵🇷 pic.twitter.com/49SLH3pgLu
Soon after, though, the comeback began. In the second Isaac Paredes got Mexico on the board with a home run of his own. From that point, Puerto Rico starter Marcus Stroman -- the MVP of the 2017 WBC, when he pitched for the United States -- cruised until the fifth. In that frame, Mexico loaded the bases with one out, and brought home their second run on a well placed bloop single. At that point, manager Yadier Molina called upon reliever Yacksel Ríos, who prevented further damage with a pop-up and a Rowdy Tellez ground-out into the shift, which is still allowed in WBC play.
The next critical juncture came in the seventh, when Mexico loaded the bases with no outs at the expense of Alexis Díaz, the brother of injured New York Mets and Puerto Rico closer Edwin Díaz. Jorge López, who relieved Díaz, managed to record the first two outs of the inning, but then back-to-back singles gave Mexico its first lead of the game:
Isaac Paredes ties it up for Team Mexico! #WorldBaseballClassic pic.twitter.com/0HuwN6c92E— World Baseball Classic (@WBCBaseball) March 18, 2023
.@LuisUrias03 gives Team Mexico the lead in the 7th! #WorldBaseballClassic pic.twitter.com/MCmvjvvewg— World Baseball Classic (@WBCBaseball) March 18, 2023
That hard-won lead was imperiled in the eighth when Rivera crushed one off Jake Sanchez to the left-center gap. Unfortunately for Rivera and Puerto Rico, Randy Arozarena was on patrol:
RANDY AT THE WALL!— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) March 18, 2023
What a grab 🤯🇲🇽
📺: WBC on FS1 pic.twitter.com/EgYLlEBC8D
That will no doubt stand as one of the most memorable highlights of the 2023 WBC, and it comes in tandem with Arozarena's excellent plate production during the tournament.
In the ninth, Giovanny Gallegos pitched around a pair of singles to pick up his second save of this WBC. In all, four Mexico relievers combined for five scoreless innings in the win over Puerto Rico.
Here is where the WBC now stands:
Cuba 4, Australia 3
Japan 9, Italy 3
Mexico 5, Puerto Rico 4
USA vs. Venezuela
Cuba vs. Quarterfinal 4 winner
Japan vs. Mexico
Semifinal 1 winner vs. Semifinal 2 winner
The semifinal round now includes two teams, Mexico and Cuba, who have never before won the WBC.