Mexico downs Puerto Rico to achieve semifinals of World Baseball Classic

MIAMI — They had rallied all the way in which again, erasing an early four-run deficit, but when Mexico was to advance into its first World Baseball Classic semifinal, and get rid of a star-studded Puerto Rico group, one other large play wanted to be made.

Randy Arozarena, after all, delivered it.

Clinging to a one-run lead within the eighth inning of Friday night time’s quarterfinal matchup, Arozarena raced close to the left-center discipline fence and made an unbelievable leaping catch up towards it, erasing what would have been a game-tying extra-base hit and serving to Mexico, his adopted residence nation, maintain on to a 5-4 victory in entrance of a sold-out crowd at loanDepot Park.

Arozarena turned a family identify whereas dominating all through the 2020 postseason. When his Tampa Bay Rays reached the World Series, he supplied three residence runs. Arozarena was reminded of that late Friday night time and was requested to establish his finest second on a baseball discipline.

“2023, World Baseball Classic, eighth inning, that catch,” he mentioned in Spanish, drawing fun from a packed interview room.

Arozarena, 28, was born and raised in Cuba. He left the island in 2015 and arrived in Mexico, the place he performed winter ball, had a daughter and fell in love along with his new residence. He turned a citizen of Mexico in April of final 12 months solely as a result of he needed to characterize the nation on this World Baseball Classic — and he has taken full benefit.

Arozarena was the MVP of Pool C, going 7-for-14 whereas driving in 9 runs and scoring six others as Mexico gained three of its 4 video games. He then made the most important play in arguably the most important sport in Mexican baseball historical past, sending Mexico right into a semifinal matchup towards powerhouse Japan on Monday.

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“I feel incredible,” Arozarena mentioned. “I’ve had some incredible moments for my career.”

Puerto Rico, enjoying within the wake of Edwin Diaz’s sobering knee damage, jumped out to a 4-0 lead within the first inning towards Mexican ace Julio Urias, getting back-to-back residence runs from Javier Baez and Eddie Rosario. But Puerto Rico did not muster a lot offense the remainder of the way in which, and Mexico lastly bridged the hole whereas all the way down to its final seven outs.

Alexis Diaz entered to his brother’s well-known walk-out tune, “Narco,” however proceeded to load the bases with none out, giving up a double to Austin Barnes and back-to-back walks to Arozarena and Alex Verdugo. Jorge Lopez got here out of the bullpen to report two fast outs. But Isaac Paredes lined a two-run single to left discipline and Luis Urias dumped a base hit into shallow proper, giving Mexico its first lead of the sport.

Edwin Diaz, who tore the patellar tendon in his proper knee throughout Puerto Rico’s on-field celebration following its win towards the Dominican Republic on Wednesday night time, reached out to Alexis after the sport to inform him he went by comparable conditions in 2019. He instructed him to dam all the surface noise and to maintain believing in himself.

“It’s been really painful for me,” Alexis Diaz, seemingly on the verge of tears, mentioned of not having his brother with him. “I wanted both of us to be together in the Classic. Not having him here has been really tough for me. But I’m a warrior and I went out there. I couldn’t accomplish what I wanted, but I’m going to keep going forward this season.”

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Puerto Rico had an opportunity to avenge Diaz and tie the sport the next inning, with a runner on first and Emmanuel Rivera uncorking a deep drive to left-center discipline. But Arozarena, who has awed followers along with his play and dazzled teammates along with his cowboy boots throughout this event, would not have it. After he secured the catch and chucked the baseball again towards the infield, Arozarena settled onto the warning observe and stretched his arms out large, his palms uncovered and his mouth agape, one other signature pose from the Cuban-born outfielder who fell in love with Mexico.

Said Mexican supervisor Benji Gil: “He’s a kid who’s incredibly focused on doing everything within his power to help this family of Mexican warriors get a chance to play for a world championship.”