In a wild game with huge implications for Pool D of the World Baseball Classic, Mexico held off Venezuela in an 11-9 victory on Sunday night at Estadio de Beisbol Charros de Jalisco.
As a result, Mexico, Venezuela and Italy all finished with records of 1-2 in pool play. UnderClassic tiebreaker rules, the two teams with the fewest runs allowed per defensive inning among the teams tied during the tournament play a tiebreaker, and the other is eliminated.
Major League Baseball announced that Venezuela (1.11 runs allowed per defensive inning) and Italy (1.05 runs allowed) will play tonight at 9 p.m. ET to determine which team from Pool D joins Puerto Rico in the second round. Mexico filed a protest after the game.
The razor-thin margin that decided the tiebreaker is reflective of how three evenly matched these 1-2 teams are. And given the fact that they all lost to Puerto Rico and allowed at least a run per inning in the games against the other two, no team had an obvious case for advancement.
Mexico protested that ruling based on how those figures were calculated. The general manager of Team Mexico, Kundy Gutierrez, told reporters after the game that discussions regarding the ruling were taking place between MLB chief baseball officer Joe Torre and senior vice president of baseball operations Kim Ng. The ruling was later confirmed, and Venezuela will play Italy for the Pool D tiebreaker.
Mexico finished with 1.12 runs allowed per defensive inning, edged out by the slimmest of margins by Venezuela with Sunday's head-to-head outcome. Even though Mexico gave up five runs in the ninth inning of a loss to Italy on Thursday, only eight defensive innings were counted from that game toward the calculation because an out was never recorded in the ninth.
Mexico jumped out to an early 8-1 lead, thanks in large part to a pair of three-run homers from Esteban Quiroz and Brandon Laird. But Venezuela refused to go quietly, scoring eight times between the fifth and seventh innings.
Roberto Osuna, who was unable to close out Italy despite a four-run lead in the ninth inning of Mexico's Classic opener, got the final two outs after the tying runs reached base.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Pouncing on Petit: For the second time in four Classic at-bats, Quiroz launched a home run, this one a three-run shot with two outs in the second inning off Venezuela starter Yusmeiro Petit to give Mexico a 5-0 lead. Quiroz battled back from an 0-2 count and capped a nine-pitch at-bat with the blast over the right-field wall.
Primetime Prado: On the heels of a 5-for-5 performance in Venezuela's 11-10 victory over Italy on Saturday, Prado stroked an RBI single to right-center field against Mexico starter Luis Mendoza in the third. Prado drove in another run with a fifth-inning double.
Laird leaves the yard: Laird gave Mexico additional breathing room with a three-run homer to left off Venezuela's Wil Ledezma in the fifth inning, extending the lead to 8-1. Laird, an infielder for the Yankees and Astros from 2011-13, has spent the last two seasons playing in the Japanese Nippon Professional Baseball organization, hitting 73 homers in that span for the Nippon Ham Fighters.
Roberson to the rescue: With Mexico's advantage cut from seven runs to three by the seventh inning, pinch-hitter Chris Roberson delivered a two-run infield single. Second baseman Jose Altuve dove to his left and nearly corralled the sharp grounder, but he could only knock it down in short right field.
'V' is for Venezuela -- and V-Mart: Venezuela responded yet again in the seventh, with Martinez belting a two-run homer just inside the right-field foul pole off Venezuela reliever Sergio Romo. The blast pulled Venezuela to within three runs, at 11-8.
Osuna's redemption: Three days after he was unable to close out Italy despite a four-run lead in the ninth inning, Osuna got the final two outs against Venezuela. The right-hander yielded a single to Alcides Escobar and walked Ender Inciarte, but then struck out Chirinos and got Altuve to fly out.
QUOTABLE "The offense had a difficult time coming from behind in all the games. We received runs early, and we have been against a wall all the time. We have done a lot in order to score some runs and come back in games, and that wasn't the mentality that we had or we thought we were going to play with. With the players we have, I thought we were going to play better ball, but it has cost us because we have been coming from behind all the time." -- Venezuela manager Omar Vizquel
WHAT'S NEXT Venezuela: A tiebreaker with Italy on Monday at 9 p.m. ET awaits Venezuela, with the winner moving on to Round 2 of the Classic, and the loser eliminated.