Mexico defeats Puerto Rico to advance to the semifinals of the World Baseball Classic
Alden GonzalezESPN Staff Writer10:31 PM ET3 Minute Read
Mexico celebrates after Final K against Puerto RicoGiovanny Gallegos freezes Enrique Hernandez and sends Mexico to semifinals against Japan.
MIAMI — After falling late against a star-studded Puerto Rico team, Mexico fought all the way back and traveled a seventh inning with three runs at a time to earn a 5-4 win in Friday night’s quarterfinals in front of a sold-out crowd at LoanDepot Park .
Mexico advanced to the semifinals for the first time in five World Baseball Classic appearances. On Monday they meet Japan in the semifinals.
Puerto Rico, playing after Edwin Diaz’s sobering knee injury, took a 4-0 first-inning lead over Mexican ace Julio Urias, with Javier Baez and Eddie Rosario hitting back-to-back homers. But Puerto Rico didn’t muster much offense the rest of the way, and Mexico eventually bridged the gap while going down on their last seven outs.
Alexis Diaz performed to his brother’s famous walk-out song, “Narco,” but continued loading bases with no outs, giving doubles to Austin Barnes and back-to-back walks to Randy Arozarena and Alex Verdugo away. Jorge Lopez came out of the bullpen to record two quick outs. But Isaac Paredes lined a two-run single into left field and Luis Urias threw a base hit into shallow right field, giving Mexico their first lead of the game.
Puerto Rico had a chance to even it out in eighth place, with a runner in first place and Emmanuel Rivera uncorking a deep drive into left midfield. Arozarena – the Pool C MVP who seemed to have his fingerprints in every game Mexico won at the tournament – sped into the gap and caught up with an unlikely leap against the fence, to the delight of the Miami crowd, who largely supported it appeared to be taken aback by Puerto Rico.
As the ball was thrown back into infield, Arozarena sat down on the warning lane and stretched his arms wide, palms bared and mouth open, another signature pose of the Cuban-born outfielder who fell in love with Mexico after defecting there was in 2016.