WBC: Mexico Hangs on against Relentless Great Britain

Darnell Sweeney of Great Britain tags out Jonathan Aranda of Mexico
(Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

Mexico 2, Great Britain 1

PHOENIX, Mar. 14 — Alexis Wilson went 2-for-3 with two RBI to lead Mexico to a hard-fought 2–1 victory over a valiant Great Britain squad in Pool C of the World Baseball Classic Tuesday night.

Mexico got a leadoff walk in the bottom of the first by left fielder Randy Arozarena. Right fielder Alex Verdugo followed with a ground ball near the bag at second, where shortstop Darnell Sweeney scooped it up, stepped on the bag, and threw to first for a double play. First baseman Joey Meneses singled to center, but designated hitter Rowdy Tellez lined to first to leave him stranded.

Catcher Harry Ford opened the second with a double to left. After B.J. Murray struck out, Matt Koperniak advanced Ford to third with a ground ball back to the pitcher. Sweeney left Ford on base with a strikeout.

Mexico Takes Early Lead

Mexico got on the board in the bottom of the second. Third baseman Isaac Paredes singled to left and advanced to second two batters later when Alan Trejo drew a one-out walk. Another strikeout followed, this time by Jarren Duran. But Wilson, the number nine hitter, made sure the runners didn’t go to waste with an infield single.

That was it for Great Britain starting pitcher Joseph King. In came Ryan Long, who got Arozarena to fly to center on a sharply hit line drive. Taijuan Walker sat Great Britain down in order in the third by striking out the side. Mexico got another runner into scoring position in the bottom of the third when Tellez hit a two-out double to right-center. But Parades couldn’t drive him in, instead hitting a fly to the second baseman in shallow left field.

Mexico had a leadoff single in the bottom of the fourth when second baseman Jonathan Aranda hit a single to deep right field. He tried to stretch it into a double, but a strong two-hop throw by Young gunned him down at second base.

Great Britain Ties Game with Mexico

In the top of the fifth, the British drew a one-out walk by Sweeney. He was caught leaning by relief pitcher Erubiel Armenta, killing their momentum. The British broke through in the top of the sixth against reliever Manuel Beretta. Young led off with a double to right. After Trayce Thompson struck out and Nick Ward popped fell to the third baseman, Harry Ford dug in. Young stole third, putting more pressure on the pitcher to not throw a wild pitch. Ford walked, putting runners on the corners. In came JoJo Romero. Murray hit a ground ball deep in the hole on the left side. Shortstop Alan Trejo made a slick backhanded scoop and jump throw to first. But the speedy Sweeney beat the throw, allowing Young to score the tying run.

Joey Meneses led off the bottom of the sixth with a grounder to second and ended up reaching on a throwing error by second baseman Anthony Seymour. But when Tellez lined to right, Paredes flied to right, and Aranda struck out, the error was rendered moot. In the top of the seventh, Sweeney drew a leadoff walk, but a follow-up grounder to the second baseman by Rudd turned into a 4–6–3 double play. Seymour singled up the middle, putting speed on the basepaths again. But Young did not get the chance to try to advance him, as Seymour was picked off.

Mexico Regains Lead

The bottom of the seventh made observers wonder what might have been had Seymour not been picked off. Trejo drew a leadoff walk from reliever Tahnaj Thomas. After Duran lined softly to third, Wilson stepped in again. A wild pitch advanced Trejo to second. That proved crucial to the outcome, as Wilson scored Trejo with a single to left and gave Mexico a 2–1 lead.

Jesus Cruz took the mound for Mexico in a setup role for the top of the eighth. He retired Young, Thompson, and Nick Ward on a grounder to the first baseman unassisted and pair of strikeouts. Meneses led off the bottom of the eighth with a single to center and advanced to second on a passed ball two batters later. But he remained there as Andre Scrubb retired Tellez on a fly to center, Paredes on a grounder to the shortstop, and Aranda on a grounder to second.

In came Giovanny Gallegos to close out the game in the ninth. First to face him was Ford, Monday’s hero against Colombia. There were no such heroics this time for Ford, as he struck out. Murray followed with a grounder to second, bringing up pinch-hitter Alex Crosby as the last hope for Great Britain. His high fly to left ended the game, sending the heavily pro-Mexico crowd of 17,705 into a loud roar.

Postgame Reactions

Wilson, a catcher, initially was the bullpen catcher. However, a late arrival at camp due to a pending birth of a child forced Alejandro Kirk to withdraw from the team, and Wilson took his spot. Now he has Mexico on the doorstep of clinching a quarterfinal berth. Mexico manager Benji Gil manages Wilson in winter ball in Culiacán, and he beamed like a proud parent when discussing Wilson after the game. “Alexis is awesome,” he said. He later added, “I do not see how he is not in organized baseball. Not because he got two hits today, but because of what he can do behind the plate when he catches the ball and throws it. He should be in organized baseball somewhere.”

Gil felt comfortable with him behind the plate but could not have predicted the hitting success, especially him driving in Mexico’s only two runs. “If I could say that I need to be purchasing lottery tickets,” Gil said.

A Big, Great Team

Gil said before the game that Mexico could not take Great Britain lightly, saying they would be “relentless.” After the game, he praised them. “Great Britain pitched the best they have pitched (all tournament). They threw strikes. There was a big variety. They didn’t have a bad inning when it comes to pitching. It’s not like any pitches were out of control, either.

“That was a report we had. They were telling us their pitchers have little experience and have problems with control. I didn’t see any of that today. There were nasty sliders and curves. They were (painting) the corners. Let’s tip our hats to them. It’s a rival that we cannot take easy. They didn’t play like they’re just starting to play baseball. No, they played like they’re a big, great team today. They would have given any other team problems.”

Great Britain manager Drew Spencer said, “Every loss hurts. I don’t think we would be human if it didn’t hurt. It definitely did. But I can’t be disappointed. I told the guys to hold their heads high and stick their chests out and walk out of here with pride, because they competed exactly the way we wanted them to.”

But the tournament was still a success for Great Britain. “We had three goals,” Spencer relayed with a smile. “Win the whole thing; get to Miami (for the quarterfinals); and avoid relegation. Those were the three. Beyond that, you’re having a disappointing tournament.” If USA beats Colombia Wednesday, Colombia will finish last, meaning Great Britain will not have to qualify for the next tournament. “If that happens,” Spencer said, “we have even more reasons to celebrate.”

Looking Ahead

Great Britain has finished pool play and has been eliminated from contention for the quarterfinals. Mexico has entered a three-way tie with Canada and USA for first place in Pool C. Whoever wins the Mexico-Canada game Wednesday afternoon is guaranteed to advance to the quarterfinals in Miami. If Colombia were to shock USA in the night game, the Canada-Mexico loser could still advance to Miami based on how the tiebreaker scenarios work out. However, if USA wins, only the Mexico-Canada winner would join them.

First pitch of Mexico-Canada is at 12:08 pm Arizona Time/3:08 pm Eastern Time. The first pitch of Colombia-USA will be at 7:08 pm Arizona Time/10:08 pm Eastern Time.

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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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