Thanks to some shoddy outfield defense from Edgar Gonzalez, Italy pulled off a shocker Thursday, defeating Mexico 6-5 to start Pool D play in the World Baseball Classic.
Gonzalez, normally an infielder, misplayed two balls in left in the top of the ninth, opening the door for Italy’s two-run inning against Sergio Romo.
Anthony Rizzo was credited with a two-run double on a ball that bounced out of Gonzalez’s glove, giving Italy the lead. Mexico tried to rally in the bottom of the ninth, loading the bases against Jason Grilli before Jorge Cantu grounded out to end it.
Adrian Gonzalez, Edgar’s younger brother, reached base five times, and Cantu delivered a three-run double for Mexico.
Italy jumped out to a 2-0 lead against Rodrigo Lopez in the top of the first, but it didn’t last long, as Mexico responded by loading the bases in front of Cantu’s double in the bottom of the inning. Mexico added a fourth run on a Ramiro Pena double in the second.
Italy was able to come back and tie the game in the fourth, when Twins catcher Drew Butera hit a two-run homer. Mexico, though, again responded in the fifth. Luis Cruz doubled in Eduardo Arredondo to make it 5-4. The game might have ended with that score, but Gonzalez had trouble on both a ball hit over his head by Nick Punto and Rizzo’s fly in the ninth.
Pool D play will continue Friday afternoon, when Canada takes on Italy. Mexico and the United States will have their showdown Friday night, with Yovani Gallardo and R.A. Dickey slated to start. That would now seem to be a must-win game for Mexico.
Brewers closer Corey Knebel set a modern major league record for relievers to start a season, as Thursday’s appearance marked his 38th consecutive appearance with a strikeout. He set down the side in order in the ninth inning, striking Josh Bell out to start the frame.
Aroldis Chapman held the record previously, recording a strikeout in his first 37 appearances of the season in 2014 with the Reds.
Knebel, 25, has flown under the radar despite having an incredibly good season. He moved into the closer’s role in mid-May when Neftali Feliz, now a free agent, struggled. After Thursday’s appearance, Knebel is 12-for-15 in save chances with a 0.96 ERA and a 65/17 K/BB ratio in 37 2/3 innings.
Despite having hit at least 20 home runs in eight of his 11 seasons in the majors, Reds first baseman Joey Votto has never participated in a Home Run Derby. Currently, he’s tied for the National League lead in home runs with 20, and he hasn’t been invited to this year’s festivities at Marlins Park.
In the event he is invited, Votto said he thinks he can win it, C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Votto likened himself to Ichiro Suzuki, a player known more for his contact abilities and mastery of the strike zone than power. “Just think of me as the Canadian Ichiro — Japan has theirs and Canada has theirs,” Votto said. “I could pull homers into the seats at will.”
Along with the 20 homers, Votto is currently hitting .306/.419/.601 with 53 RBI, and 52 runs scored in 313 plate appearances.
Teammate Scott Schebler also has 20 home runs at the moment and Adam Duvall, who made it to the semifinals of the Derby last year, has 16. Neither of them have been approached about participating in the Derby, either. Per Rosecrans, in the event each was invited, Duvall said he would consider participating if he wasn’t an All-Star and Schebler would participate regardless. Votto said he would only participate if he made the All-Star team.