Puerto Rico remained red-hot at the 2017 World Baseball Classic and beat Mexico, 9-4, behind a pair of home runs from Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor and a homer from Cubs infielder Javier Baez in a wild game Saturday night at Estadio Charros de Jalisco in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Coming off a dominant 11-0 victory Friday against Venezuela, Puerto Rico led wire-to-wire again Saturday, withstanding a midgame rally by Mexico. Puerto Rico improved to 2-0 in Pool D with the win, putting the team in a good position to claim a top seed for the second round in San Diego.
"Any victory is good, but this is ensuring something good," Lindor said. "It's not over yet, but the work here continues in Mexico. We have to play strong tomorrow, whatever happens."
Lindor mashed a two-run bomb in the first inning and added a solo shot in the seventh, the first hits of WBC '17 for the rising star. Baez iced the game with a three-run blast in the ninth. Puerto Rico also got RBIs from Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina and Astros teammates Carlos Beltran and Carlos Correa.
Mexico fell to 0-2 on home soil, meaning it needs a win Sunday against Venezuela (10 p.m. ET on MLB Network and MLB.TV) and some additional help to force a potential tiebreaker game. With Puerto Rico being the only two-win team in Jalisco, all four Pool D countries are still in play for the second round.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Lindor launches two: Lindor crushed a mammoth homer over the billboards in right field to give Puerto Rico a 2-0 lead two batters into the game. Lindor's blast off Mexico starter Miguel Gonzalez (White Sox) came on a 1-2 pitch and scored Angel Pagan, who led off with a single.
Lindor took Yankees Minor Leaguer Giovanny Gallegos deep to right in the seventh for what proved to be the deciding run for Puerto Rico. More >
Laird leads the way:Brandon Laird drove in Mexico's first run with a single in the first and then sparked a three-run rally in the seventh with a leadoff double. He scored on a single by Chris Roberson.
Baez seals it: Baez put an exclamation point on the night for Puerto Rico with his three-run shot in the ninth. As he watched the ball soar over the left-field wall, Baez took a few steps and then placed his bat on the ground before rounding the bases.
Error costs Mexico: A dropped foul pop by Mexico catcher Xorge Castillo came back to bite the team in a big way in the ninth inning, providing Puerto Rico with an extra out and setting up Baez's homer. With a runner on base and two out, Beltran lifted a foul pop and Castillo called off third baseman Laird, only to see the ball pop out of his catcher's mitt. Beltran eventually reached on a walk and Molina followed with a run-scoring single to give Puerto Rico a 6-4 lead. Baez then homered to left to put the game out of reach.
"It would have been different -- I am not going to -- it's not his fault," Mexico manager Edgar Gonzalez said. "It's okay. But he should have made that catch -- the catcher called it. If the game keeps 5-4, it would have been better."
QUOTABLE "They have been waiting for this tournament for four years, and coming in here and not giving 100 percent in one game is inconceivable. They are going to come out [Sunday] like it was the first game in the round. We have very good talent, very good youth." -- Puerto Rico manager Edwin Rodriguez
"Every hitter has gone 0-for-9. Any time he picks up, he can carry the team, so that's part of baseball. He picks up his rhythm, and I want him -- the only way you get out of a slump is to keep attacking." -- Gonzalez on younger brother and Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez
WHAT'S NEXT Puerto Rico: Puerto Rico is the home team against Italy on Sunday, with first pitch scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET. Puerto Rico wins Pool D with a victory.
Mexico: Mexico will be the road team against Venezuela on Sunday night, with first pitch scheduled for 10 p.m. ET. Mexico needs a victory and a win by Puerto Rico over Italy to stay in the mix for a potential tiebreaker.