Despite facing a star-studded lineup, credit the Mexican pitching staff for holding down the American lineup, although we will mention that Stanton was fractions of an inch (twice) from making this a very different ballgame.
All in all, however, the U.S. drops its first game of the tournament, while Mexico improves to 1-1. Mexico will play a 0-1 Canadian squad tomorrow, while the U.S. will play a surprise 2-0 Italy. So, basically Team USA needs to win both of its remaining games to have a chance to move on — its collective backs are already up against the wall.
Well, that’s it from us here, folks. Thanks for following along and hope you enjoyed it.
Mid 9th, Mexico 5-2: Mitchell Boggs lets Mexico get a couple baserunners and make things interesting, but eventually gets through the inning by getting former Rays star Jorge Cantu to ground out to Rollins.
So, despite throwing 28 pitches just last night, it looks like Giants closer Sergio Romo is slated to try and shut down Team USA in the ninth. Somewhere Bruce Bochy is cursing his television set.
End 8th, Mexico 5-2: A matter of millimeters and this would be a very different game.
For the second time tonight, Stanton just misses a home run the other way, this time hitting one to the warning track and Garcia in straight-away right field. That’s five runs that Team USA missed out on with Stanton at the plate, and instead they’re just a pair of long third outs.
Mid 8th, Mexico 5-1: Long half inning their, but despite loading the passes Mexico fails to get across any insurance runs.
Now, those extra runs don’t just matter in the context of this game. Rather, run differential plays a determining factor as to who may or may not move on to Round 2, so scoring seemingly meaningless runs may end up making a difference in terms of the tournament.
Nonetheless, Steve Cisheck keeps Mexico off the board by coming in with one out and two on.
End 7th, Mexico 5-1: Jimmy Rollins doubles for Team USA’s only extra-base hit of the day, but Brandon Phillips strikes out with Rollins in scoring position and again America goes without a run.
Credit the Team Mexico bullpen for picking up right where Gallardo left off and holding down an All-Star-laden lineup. The relief corps haven’t had quite the location that Gallardo does, but we’ve seen an impressive assortment of breaking pitches. However, Oscar Villarreal got Phillips on a perfectly located fastball to end the inning.
Mid 7th, Mexico 5-1: Luke Gregerson comes on for Team USA and gets through the inning 1-2-3. Although we’ve mentioned that the U.S.’s timing looks off, they’ve also had some good at-bats and worked a few walks. So, getting them back up to the plate quickly is a positive.
On another note we didn’t mention that last half inning … Oliver Perez. Yeah, he was in this game. He had such a great arm that the Mets allowed him to ruin their pitching staff for several years and exhibit no control over the ball, but he’s trying to make a comeback as a reliever for the Mariners.
End 6th, Mexico 5-1: So, the U.S. has had some chances, but they haven’t been able to cash them in as of yet.
However, Stanton juuuuuust missed one there, getting under the ball by probably the width of a hair — enough to keep it in the ballpark. Chase Field is a pretty good hitter’s park, but does get a bit cavernous towards center field, and Stanton hit it to about the biggest part of the ballpark.
Mid 6th, Mexico 5-1: Very quick inning there, as Vinnie Pestano comes in to relieve Glen Perkins after an inning of work, and gets Mexico 1-2-3 on two groundouts sandwhiching a strikeout of Edgar Gonzalez.
Pestano, of the Cleveland Indians, has easily been the most effective of the three pitchers Team USA has run out there, dominating the three hitters he faced that last half inning.
End 5th, Mexico 5-1: Frustrating half inning there for Team USA, which gets its first two runners across but can’t plate any runs.
J.P. Arencibia, Jimmy Rollins and Brandon Phillips all can’t manage to get the big hit, and the U.S. still finds itself down by four. As we mentioned earlier, it looks to be timing issues which are dooming the home team, as Stanton and Adam Jones work walks, but otherwise the U.S. hitters don’t quite look like they’re on the ball yet.
Mid 5th, Mexico 5-1: So how about Eduardo Arredondo?
The 28-year-old has already played 12 seasons in the Mexican leagues, hitting .320 for his career and stealing 110 bases. Tonight he’s looked the penultimate pesky slap-hitter. He’s gone 3-for-3 with a double and two runs scored, so he’s done plenty to help Mexico’s effort so far, and been a thorn in the side of the U.S.
End 4th, Mexico 4-1: So, despite Mexico’s relative dominance so far, Team USA had a chance with the tying run at the plate there, with Eric Hosmer up at bat.
Ultimately Hosmer just hits back to the box, but he’s definitely a young player who has a chance to turn some heads here in international competition. His rookie season in Kansas City was pretty much forgettable, but Mark Teixeira’s injury has given him an opportunity with Team USA.
Next time he’ll be hoping to take advantage of it.
Mid 4th, Mexico 4-0: So, a quick inning for Dickey there, which is a positive, as it gives Team USA’s bats another chance immediately.
Aside from that, David Wright looks amazing at third base. Of course it’s no secret that he’s one of the best defensive third basemen in baseball, but his skills at the hot corner — particularly going to his right — are on display tonight. He made a great play in the second inning, too, on a force play at second which may have prevented another run.
End 3rd, Mexico 4-0: So, again, nothing doing again for Team USA, which goes down in order.
In a 4-0 game the U.S. still has enough offensive firepower to get back in this one, but it’s more an issue of timing. This is the time of the year when major leaguers are still getting their timing back. So, when facing a pitcher who has such advanced command for this time of the year, they’re kind of useless so far. Gallardo’s been oh-so efficient this game, but it will be to Team USA’s benefit to get into Mexico’s bullpen.
Mid 2nd, Mexico 4-0: Hey, Red Sox fans, remember Adrian Gonzalez?
Mexico’s first baseman hits a monstrous two-run home run off of Dickey to extend his team’s lead to 4-0. Gonzalez is easily Mexico’s best player, and if they’re going to advance in the tournament they’ll certainly need him to continue coming up with big hits like that. Plus, it probably doesn’t hurt that he’s plenty familiar with Chase Field after spending so long playing in the AL West with the Padres.
End 2nd, Mexico 2-0: So, Yovani Gallardo looks good. Much better than he should for this time of the year.
Gallardo’s on a strict 50-pitch limit for this evening (15 lower than the tournament’s Round 1 limit), and he’s also said to be dealing with a minor hip ailment. That being said, he’s working efficiently, and has much, much more command than you’d expect to see at this time of the year. The velocity is definitely tick lower from where it will be by midseason, but he’s keeping Team USA off-balance by hitting the corners.
Mid 2nd, Mexico 2-0: Karim Garcia just lined a double. Let’s repeat that: Karim Garcia just lined a double.
As we mentioned earlier, Mexico has a number of players who were formerly in the big leagues, but no longer. So, we may have a couple more double-take moments like there in the second inning. Although Garcia’s been playing in the Mexican leagues since, the last time he played in the U.S. was 2004 — although he was once a top prospect coming up with the Dodgers.
End 1st, Mexico 2-0: Ryan Braun gives one a ride, but otherwise nothing doing for Team USA in the first, which goes down 1-2-3.
Obviously, even with a so-so roster, the United States is a better ballclub than Mexico. However, this kind of tournament is a reminder that baseball is a game of aggregates, and the “any given Sunday” mantra really applies to this sport more than football. If the 16 teams in this tournament played a 162-game schedule against each other, of course the U.S. would come out on top — and probably pretty easily. However, the gap between them and squads like the Dominican Republic and Japan is already known to be not all that great, and the gap between even the U.S. and Mexico is probably much closer than you think.
Mid 1st, Mexico 2-0: So, for the record, R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball looked fine there. The location perhaps wasn’t so great, but it was definitely getting the kind of (or lack of) spin that he looks for from that pitch.
However, Eduardo Arredondo leads off the game with a single, Ramiro Pena follows with a double over Giancarlo Stanton’s head, and after RBIs by Luis Cruz and Adrian Gonzalez, Team Mexico takes the early lead.
9:00 p.m.: So, for those not familiar with the WBC format, there are indeed some limitations on pitchers throughout the tournament.
Pitchers are limited to 65 pitches in the first round, 80 in the second and 95 in the third. So, for Red Sox fans, Alfredo Aceves actually threw three innings in Mexico’s opener, meaning he’s all but done for this round of play. Team USA, in particular, has a deep bullpen, so it won’t affect them much. However, many other teams need to be very careful how they deploy their relievers.
8: 45 p.m.: We’ve got the lineups for the game:
Eduardo Arredondo, CF
Ramiro Pena, 2B
Luis Cruz, 3B
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Jorge Cantu, DH
Karim Garcia, RF
Edgar Gonzalez, LF
Jose Felix, C
Gil Velazquez, SS
Yovani Gallardo, RHP
Jimmy Rollins, SS
Brandon Phillips, 2B
Ryan Braun, LF
Joe Mauer, DH
David Wright, 3B
Eric Hosmer, 1B
Giancarlo Stanton, RF
Adam Jones, CF
R.A. Dickey, RHP
8 a.m. ET: It’s a matter of some debate in the World Baseball Classic which pool is the best. Is it Pool A, featuring Japan and Cuba? Is it Pool C, with the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Puerto Rico? Or is it Pool D, which has Mexico and the United States?
The answer is that it isn’t likely Pool D, which kicks off on Friday, but that’s mostly because the United States has a bit of a turnout problem with its squad. While Cuba, Japan and the Latin countries don’t have nearly as much trouble getting their players to participate, the U.S. is largely running out a ‘B’ team — especially in the starting rotation.
That all being said, Team USA’s opening matchup against Mexico figures to be one of the better rivalries of the entire tournament — and one of the better games. Despite the notable absence of some of the United States’ biggest stars, this is still a squad that can run out Ryan Braun, Adam Jones, David Wright and Giancarlo Stanton all in the same lineup. And, on Friday, they’ll also run out the reigning NL Cy Young award winner, R.A. Dickey, too.
Mexico, meanwhile, boast a pretty strong roster itself, beginning with Adrian Gonzalez. Interestingly enough, many of Mexico’s best players are former major league fringe players, including Karim Garcia, Dennys Reyes, Oliver Perez and Jorge Cantu. However, on Friday they’ll counter Team USA with starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo, the Brewers’ ace.
First pitch is scheduled for 9 p.m. ET, s0 we’ll have the starting lineups and, as Vin Scully would say, “all the stats and stories” leading up to the game. And, if you’re so inclined, you can also follow this live blogger on Twitter at @ZachStoloff for Red Sox, MLB and general baseball analysis, in addition to the occasional limerick.
Photo via Facebook/World Baseball Classic