Teams Italy and Mexico weren’t expected to do much in the final WBC pool against Puerto Rico and Venezuela, but they certainly opened up the series with some fireworks against each other. After Mexico got on the board in the first, the game was tied or a team took a lead four times before the end of the fifth. Italy would ultimately walk it off on a John Andreoli (Cubs AAA) two run single as part of a five run 9th, scoring ten total on the back of four home runs (three from Major Leaguers in Chris Colabello, Drew Butera and Rob Segedin, the other by Andreoli). Without the names (such as they are) or the home runs (only two) Mexico still scored nine runs, largely thanks to Sebastian Elizalde (Reds AA) who had 3 RBI and a run scored out of the eight spot.
Expected to be the top dog in the pool, Venezuela took it hard as they became the first team to lose via the mercy rule in 2017, falling 11-0 in seven innings to Puerto Rico. A six run seventh was capped off with a walk off home run by T.J. Rivera. Seth Lugo earned the win thanks to 5.1 innings of shut out, one hit ball. Venezuela would finally score in their second game, making up for the initial shut out with 11 runs of their own against Italy, but it would take ten innings and a Martin Prado double that knocked in Jose Altuve to push Italy to 1-1.
World Series rivals Francisco Lindor and Javier Baez were the heroes for Puerto Rico against Mexico as the short stop blasted two huge home runs for three runs and the second baseman knocked in two as well. Jorge Lopez (MIL) earned the win by allowing one run in 4.1 innings, striking out five.
Trying to match Japan, Israel and the Dominican Republic with a perfect first round, team Puerto Rico fell behind early against Italy in their final game, but thanks to two more hits by Francisco Lindor and a three run home run from Carlos Correa made them the top seed to come out of Pool D and pushed Italy to 1-2 despite scoring 23 total runs in three games.
Wrapping up Pool D, Mexico took on Venezuela hoping to force a three way tie with Venezuela and Italy. While we didn’t get any of the possible crazy scenarios in Pool C, this time things worked out perfectly. The powerhouse Venezuela pounded Mexico for 9 runs included three off Sergio Romo in relief, but Esteban Quiroz and Gerald Laird each knocked in three to lead Mexico to an 11-9 victory.
Despite winning, Mexico was officially eliminated from the second round contention due to the tiebreaker rules (least runs allowed per inning). Mexico had advanced to the second round in each of the first two WBC tournaments (2006 and 2009), but after a poor showing in 2013 was forced to earn their qualification for this one last summer. While they swept the field, another bad first round could see them in a similar position next time, having to win a qualifying round just to participate.
With Puerto Rico already advancing and Mexico eliminated through tiebreaker, the top two teams had one more game to play Monday night to determine the second team to advance. John Andreoli started things off strong for team Italy with a double in the first, then scored on a single by Daniel Descalso. This one run lead would be all the scoring until the sixth as A.J. Morris pitched five no hit, shut out innings. Venezuela got on the board with an unearned run in the top of the sixth, but Andreoli would take back the lead with a solo home run in the bottom of the seventh.
In the end, however, Italy wasn’t able to pull off an upset similar to Israel’s as Venezuela’s super star laden line-up finally woke up in the 9th. Miguel Cabrera started the inning with a massive solo home run to tie the game, then after a Victor Martinez walk, Rougned Odor thought he hit a home run as well, but it wound up being just a deep RBI single to give Venezuela the lead. He would move to third on a Carlos Gonzalez single against the shift to left and scored the fourth run on an Alcides Escobar sacrifice bunt. Alex Liddi would get one run back for Italy with a homer off Francisco Rodriguez, but K-Rod would ultimately close out the pool by getting the hero Andreoli to ground out.
With the win, Venezuela went 2-2 and will play in San Diego against top seed Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and team USA. The top two teams from San Diego will face off on the top two out of Israel, the Netherlands, Japan and Cuba in Los Angeles to determine the 2017 World Baseball Classic champion.