GUADALAJARA, Mexico (AP) — Miguel Cabrera hit a tying homer and Rougned Odor delivered a go-ahead single during a three-run rally in the ninth inning that carried Venezuela past Italy 4-3 on Monday, March 13, night and into the second round of the World Baseball Classic.
In a one-game tiebreaker that determined the final team to advance out of the first round, Cabrera’s solo shot to right-center evened the score at 2 in the top of the ninth. With a runner on, Odor launched an opposite-field drive off the top of the left-center fence and held up at first base with an RBI single after thinking the ball had cleared the wall.
Odor later scored on a nicely executed suicide squeeze by Alcides Escobar. Francisco Rodriguez gave up Alex Liddi’s leadoff homer in the bottom half before getting three straight groundouts for the save, eliminating Italy.
One night after getting a late reprieve from WBC officials, Venezuela moved on to face the United States in the Pool F opener for both teams Wednesday in San Diego.
Puerto Rico, which went 3-0 to win Venezuela’s first-round pool, and the defending champion Dominican Republic are the other teams in Pool F. Two will advance to the single-elimination semifinals at Dodger Stadium next week.
The Venezuelans lost to Mexico on Sunday night, leaving Italy, Venezuela and Mexico all at 1-2 after round-robin play was completed in Pool D. The host team was eliminated on a close tiebreaker — runs allowed per inning played — but the correct announcement did not come until long after the game was over.
Initially, the WBC Twitter account declared that Monday night’s tiebreaker game would be between Mexico and Italy. Officials then informed Venezuela of the proper calculation.
“We qualified here basically because of an out that (Mexico) did not get (against Italy),” Venezuela manager Omar Vizquel said. “I remember when I was a player and before a Game 7 of the World Series was very stressful, and I haven’t felt like that until last night. We were in limbo until we got word that we were going to play and tonight we were shut down for six innings, but we kept on fighting.”
“I’m really proud of my team,” he added. “Now moving forward, I don’t want to say too much. I just want a good night’s sleep.”
Venezuela, with a bevy of major league stars on its roster, advanced despite allowing 35 runs in the first round — the third-highest mark in tournament history. South Africa and China gave up 38 each in 2006.
“The pitching has not been up to the challenge so far. We have been punished badly but the team made it to the second round,” Vizquel said. “Sometimes it’s not easy to get where you want to go. Sometimes destiny makes it difficult, and that happened to us. Hopefully we can use that to play better baseball.”
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