Team Mexico’s Randy Arozarena takes in the thrill of running the bases against Team Canada at Chase Field in Phoenix on Wed Mar 15, 2023 (mlb.com photo)
Mexico. 10 10 0
Canada 3. 7. 0
Wed, March 15, 2023
By Lewis Rubman
PHOENIX–Fresh (if a team ever can be fresh for a noontime game after a night game) from an exhausting win over a gritty but inexperienced Great Britain, Mexico, now 2-1 and in a three way tie with the United States and Canada, took the field against the latter in a contest to decide which of the two will advance to the quarter finals of this year’s World Baseball Classic.
Both of the opponents in this afternoon’s confrontation have faced the US once. Canada lost a humiliating mercy rule shortened no contest to the team from the states on Monday the 13th, and Mexico toppled red, white, and blue, 11-5 on Sunday the 12th before a sellout crowd of 47,534. Today, Mexico soundly defeated Canada, 10-3 to gain one the two berths to the next round.
Although the squad from south of the border officially is the visiting team and is batting first, it has one home field advantage: the crowd, which has backed it vociferously in all three of its appearances.
Canada’s. manager, Ernie Whitt, chose Rob Zastryzny, a left handed veteran just a week or so short of his 31st birthday, who pitched for the Mets and Angels last year and has a lifetime MLB record of 2-0, 4.66, to start for our northern neighbors. He lasted only two games, in which he threw 50 pitches, 28 for strikes and surrendered two runs, both earned, on four hits two walks, a hit batter and a balk. He struck out two. Zastruzny’s replacement was a righty, Phillippe Aumont.
Right hander José Urquidy, who posted a mark of 13-8, 3.94 for the Astros last, was manager Genji Gil’s choice to start for the Mexicans. He’s no stranger to pressure packed situations. Urquidy is the only Mexican pitcher other than Fernando Valenzuela to have won a World Series games, and he has three to El Toro’s one.
He went as far as the rules allowed, throwing 62 of the 65 pitches allowed. 44 of them were considered strikes. Urquidy allowed two runs, both earned, on six hits, one of them out of the park and a walk in his four full innings of work. He was relieved by Adrián Martínez, whom the A’s recently sent down to Las Vegas .
The game, which began during a rare Phoenix rain shower, was played, like all of those in this series, under a closed roof, began with a controversy. A pitch by Zastryzny hit leadoff batter Randy Arozamena, and Canada immediately challenged the call.
They lost the challenge. Alex Verdugo flew out to left for the first out. Joey Meneses’s weak grounder to third went for a hit that moved Arozamena to second. Both runners advanced 90 feet on a balk and scored on a Rowdy Tellez one single to right. Isaac Paredes walked but was wiped out when Luis Urías hit into. an inning ending around the horn double play.
Canada came roaring back in its half of the initial frame.Edouard Julien smacked a two base hit to right. The Curse of the Leadoff Double was partially fulfilled. Julien advanced to but held on at third on Abraham Toro’s single to center. A full count walk to Tyler O’Neil loaded the bases, bringing up cleanup hitter Jared Young, who flew out to shallow right.
All the baserunners stayed put but advanced a notch on a solid single to center by Abraham ’Toro that left the bags clogged and drove in Julien, narrowing the gap to 2-1. Urquidy then fanned Bo Naylor and induced Owen Caissie to ground out to put out the fire.
Mexico got that run back with two down in the top of the second. Austin Barnes drew a walk, a Arozamena drove him home with a two bagger that bounced to the right field fence beneath the Coors Strike Zone and threatened in the third against reliever Phillippe Aumont.
Jacob Robson robbed Alex Thomas of a home run with a leaping catch of his lead drive to left, and, after Tellez walked and Paredes singled to right. Urías grounded into a 6-4-3 twin killing. Aumont left before completing the fourth, having issued passports to a pair of batters and striking out two others in that frame. Southpaw Andrew Albers saved his bacon by getting Verdugo to line out to left.
Canada pulled within a run of Mexico in the fourth on 414 foot lead off four bagger to left. It came off a curve that was thrown a 80.6 mph and left the bat of Canada’s catcher at 105.9 mph.
Urías opened the Mexico sixth with a walk. After Trejo went down swinging, Alex Thomas sent Urías to third with a single to center and took second on the throw. This brought Cade
Smith out of the bullpen and on to the mound. He loaded the bases with a 3-2 walk to Barnes, and Arozamena unloaded them with a three run double to left. Two those runs were charged to Albers; the other to Smith, who turned gave way to Trevor Brigden, who stopped the hemorrhage after walking Tellez by striking to Paredes swinging. By now, Mexico holding a commanding lead of 7-2.
Lefty Ben Onyshko was the next moundsman on Canada’s merry-go-round. He hit Urías with a pitch and gave up an infield single on a hard liner that shortstop López couldn’t handle. First baseman Jared Young threw Urías out at home on a fielder’s choice that moved Trejo to third and allowed Thomas, after reaching first, to steal second, which Brough Indigo Díaz into the game to relieve Onyshko. Díaz promptly plunked Barnes to reload the bases. They stayed loaded after Díaz walked Arozamena, only now Mexico was up, 8-2.
When Thomas crossed the plate on Verdugo’s sac fly to center it was 9-2. Menenses finally flew out to right to end the frame.
Martínez finished his day by fanning Denzel Clark to open the home seventh. Southpaw Samuel Zazueta replaced the promising righty from Mexicali and, after getting Jacob Robson on a called third strike, allowed a homer over the glove of a leaping Verdugo in right. A walk to Toro ended Zazueta’s stint, and he gave way to César Vargas, who disposed of O’Neil with an inning ending strike out that kept the score at 9-3, Mexico.
Mexico reached double figures in the eighth with a leadoff blast over the right center field fence by Tellez that made it 10-3.
Evan Rutckyln was the last pitcher Canada sent to the mound, throwing a scoreless ninth. (I hope I haven’t missed any participant in this sorry parade).
Jacobo Sánchez (AKA Jaque Mate Sánchez , or Checkmate Sánchez) set Canada down in order in the bottom of the ninth.
Urquidy got the well earned win; Zasrryzny, the well earned loss.
With this win, Mexico is guaranteed a spot in the Miami quarterfinal round. How the Mexicans will be seeded w it will be seeded will be determined after tonight’s USA-Colombia duel, scheduled for 7:00, is over and the tie-breaking rules are applied.