Prado's big game lifts Venezuela over Italy in slugfest
Martin Prado produced the first five-hit game in World Baseball Classic history, including the game-winning RBI double in the 10th inning that propelled Venezuela to its first victory in this year's tournament, 11-10, over Italy on Saturday at Estadio de Beisbol Charros de Jalisco in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Following an 11-0 on loss on Friday night to Puerto Rico, Venezuela trailed 5-0 in the fifth inning before its offense finally came to life with eight unanswered runs. Alcides Escobarsingled in the team's first run of the tournament in the fifth, and he later added a two-run double down the left-field line in the sixth to tie the game at 5.
Venezuela and Italy are both 1-1 in Pool D round-robin play. Puerto Rico (1-0) and Mexico (0-1) played later Saturday night. The top two teams in the pool will advance to the second round of the tournament in San Diego. On Sunday, Venezuela plays Mexico, while Italy faces Puerto Rico.
"We had to win this game some way," Venezuela manager Omar Vizquel said. "I have had a lot of ballgames in my career, playoffs and World Series, and I've been involved in a lot of games, and this is probably -- this is the top three that I have been involved in. Italy was a tremendous opponent."
Salvador Perez drilled a go-ahead homer with one out in the ninth inning, but he was forced out of the game when he and Drew Butera collided on a play at the plate after Italy tied the game in the ninth. Closer Francisco Rodriguez was also injured on the play for Venezuela, which is looking to earn a trip to the second round of the Classic for the first time since 2009 when it reached the semifinals.
According to a Major League Baseball official on site, Perez sustained a left knee injury and has been referred for further diagnostic testing. According to a tweet by Team Venezuela late Saturday night, an MRI revealed no structural damage. But the inflammation will force the catcher to miss the rest of the tournament.
"I went to back to Salvador, and I went back to Francisco, and then back to Salvador. It was the weirdest thing," Vizquel said. "Two guys down at the same time. One guy said he's OK, the other one said, 'I can't walk.' There were a lot of emotions going on on that play."
Venezuela scored three runs in the top of the seventh to take an 8-5 lead, but Italy would not go down without a fight. Francisco Cervelli knocked in John Andreoli with a single -- one of his three hits in the game -- to cut the lead to one in the bottom of the inning. Andreoli then tied the score at eight with a single of his own.
Alex Liddi and Brandon Nimmo both crushed solo home runs in the fourth, while Daniel Descalso contributed three RBIs for Team Italy, which was riding the momentum of its stunning ninth-inning comeback victory over Team Mexico on Thursday.
"Right now, we cannot get pressured by emotions because tomorrow we have another game," Italy manager Marco Mazzieri said. "We turned the victory the other day. We're going to turn this game the same way."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Injuries pile up: Though Venezuela came out on top, it lost a few key players to injury. Perez was hurt making a game-saving play at the plate in the ninth when Butera, who ran through a stop sign while rounding third, dove into his knee. Rodriguez sustained a pulled groin on the same play, while reliever Silvino Bracho strained his right hamstring earlier in the contest. More >
Descalso's clutch hitting: Descalso, who signed a one-year deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks in February, helped Team Italy jump out to an early lead with a pair of two-out hits. The 30-year-old infielder got Italy on the board in the first with a double to left field to score Cervelli, and he added a single in the third that drove in Cervelli and Rob Segedin. Descalso's 2-for-4 afternoon raised his Classic average in 2017 to .375. More >
Prado's nifty grab: Nimmo stepped up to bat in the eighth inning with Butera on first and one out and skied a foul popup toward the third-base dugout. Prado raced over from the infield dirt, reached over the wall and snagged the ball out of the air, tumbling into the stands. Butera tagged up and advanced to second on the catch and came in to score the tying run on Andreoli's single, but Prado's heroics received a standing ovation from the crowd.
QUOTABLE "They never went down, even though we came back and we tied it, 5-5. They kept scoring. We went ahead twice, they came and they tied the game, and no doubt about it, it was a very interesting game where there was everything, all kinds of things, a lot of strategy from both teams, and I didn't know Italy could play baseball like this. I have to take my hat off. They were a tremendous team to compete with." -- Vizquel
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS Prado singled in the first, third and seventh, and he added doubles in the fifth and 10th to complete the first five-hit game in Classic history. The 33-year-old infielder, who recorded one five-hit game with the Marlins in 2015 against the Mets, also added a walk for good measure.
WHAT'S NEXT Venezuela: Team Venezuela caps off play in Pool D when it hosts Team Mexico at 10 p.m. ET on Sunday.
Italy: Team Italy takes on Team Puerto Rico at 3:30 p.m. ET on Sunday .