Colombia Shocks Mexico in WBC Opener on Costly Error

Colombia pitcher Guillermo Zuniga yelling in jubilee after recording the final out of his team's victory over Mexico.
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Colombia 5, Mexico 4 (10)

PHOENIX, Mar. 11 — A fielding error with two outs in the top of the tenth gave Colombia the winning margin as they defeated Mexico, 5–4, in ten innings. Reynaldo Rodriguez, who plays professionally in Mexico, went 3-for-4 with a home run and three RBI to lead Colombia offensively, while Randy Arozarena went 2-for-4 with a homer and 2 RBI to lead the way for Mexico.

Mexico starting pitcher Julio Urias began the game with four perfect innings. Colombia starter Nabil Crismatt kept pace, with a leadoff double by Arozarena being the only blemish. That changed in the bottom of the fourth after a one-out single by designated hitter Joey Meneses. A swinging bunt groundout to the pitcher by first baseman Rowdy Tellez advanced Meneses to scoring position. Third baseman Isaac Paredes brought him home with a single to left, giving Mexico a 1–0 lead.

Colombia broke up the perfect game in the fifth, and didn’t stop with that. Consecutive doubles by designated hitter Jorge Alfaro and catcher Elias Diaz tied the game. Up came Rodriguez, the only player in the starting lineup for either team not affiliated with a club in Major League Baseball. The 36-year-old first baseman ripped a deep fly down the left-field line. It hit the pole for a two-run home run, silencing the heavily pro-Mexico crowd as Colombia took a 3–1 lead.

Mexico tied the game up in the bottom of the fifth off reliever Jhon Romero. With center fielder Alek Thomas on first and one out, catcher Austin Barnes hit a slow grounder to short. The throw to first retired him as Thomas advanced to third. Up came Arozarena, who clubbed a two-run homer to left to tie the game at three.

Colombia Edges Ahead, Mexico Ties It Again

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Colombia re-took the lead in the top of the seventh. Designated hitter Jorge Alfaro led off with a double to left. Two batters later, Rodriguez dumped a one-out single to center, plating Alfaro for a 4–3 lead. Colombia threatened to extend the inning with a sharp grounder to the left side, but a slick play by Paredes led to a side-retiring 5–4–3 double play. The Colombian lead only lasted into the bottom half. A pair of one-out singles by Thomas and Barnes, followed by a fly to right, put runners on the corner for right fielder Alex Verdugo. His single to center tied the game again, this time at four.

Mexico had a chance to win in the bottom of the ninth off Colombian reliever Guillermo Zuniga. With two outs, Barnes crushed a double to right. That brought up Arozarena, whom Colombia predictably walked intentionally. Verdugo could not convert the opportunity to be a hero, striking out to strand the runners and send the game to extra innings.

Extra Innings

Alfaro went to second as the automatic runner in the top of the tenth. Catcher Elias Diaz advanced him to third with a fly to right. Rodriguez hit a slow grounder to third. Alfaro had to stay put, so even though Rodriguez beat it out for an infield single, no run scored. A squeeze attempt failed, as Jordan Diaz lined it to Mexico first baseman Rowdy Tellez for the second out. Right fielder Gustavo Campero followed with a grounder to the shortstop, Luis Urias, who had just moved from second to short as part of a defensive substitution. Urias couldn’t come up with it. On the error, Alfaro scored as Rodriguez advanced to second.

Zuniga stayed on the mound for the bottom of the tenth with Jarren Duran, pinch-running for Verdugo, as the automatic runner. Meneses fanned before Tellez flied to left, bringing up Paredes as the last hope for Mexico. Durran stole third, putting the tying run 90 feet away, but a called third strike sealed the victory for the jubilant Colombians.

Postgame Reflections

Team Mexico manager Benji Gil said about the loss, “They all hurt. If you lose 1-0 or 30-0 it’s the same. In this type of tournament, any loss you have a bad taste in the mouth.” Later, he added, “But it was a good game. We fought. We tied and then they went up and we tied it. It was a very well-fought game.”

Team Colombia manager Jolbert Cabrera said that the win “reaffirmed that our baseball, Colombian baseball, continues to grow. These kids are unbelievable. They’re so talented. Like I said before, they are fearless. They are fearless. And they are going to play their hearts out, day in and day out. That’s what we’re all about.”

The four perfect innings by Urias did not make Team Colombia waver. Cabrera told his players to “stick with the plan,” adding that they knew they were facing “a beast.” He continued, “But sometimes good things happen. They kept putting up good at-bats. Even though (Urias) was being dominant, the at-bats started getting better, and we started seeing a little pattern. And they executed perfectly.” Cabrera pointed out that when Urias made mistakes while going through the “heart of the lineup,” concluding with, “We got lucky that way.”

Looking Ahead

Team Colombia is off Sunday before facing Team Great Britain Monday afternoon at Chase Field. Sunday night Team Mexico will face Team USA in one of the most anticipated matchups of Pool C. First pitch will be at 7 pm Arizona Time (10 pm Eastern).

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Evan M. Thompson, Editor-in-chief

Evan M. Thompson, Editor-in-chief

Evan is the owner and sole contributor of Thompson Talks, a website discussing the Big Four North American Pro Sports as well as soccer. He also is a credentialed member of the Colorado Rockies press corps. His first and biggest love is baseball.

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