By Kevin Glew (Canadian Baseball Network)
PHOENIX - Mexico scored four runs in the sixth inning to break the game open and propel them to a 10-3 win over Canada at the World Baseball Classic on Wednesday afternoon at Chase Field in Phoenix, Ariz.
With the victory, Mexico moves on to the quarterfinals in Miami, while Canada will require Colombia to beat the U.S. in the final game of Pool C play on Wednesday night to have a small chance of advancing.
If Colombia wins, they, along with Canada and the U.S. will finish with 2-2 records and a tiebreaker formula will be used to determine who moves on.
Despite the loss, Canadian manager Ernie Whitt is excited about the future of the national team.
“I think we have some really good young players that are coming. I think it showed a little bit today, inexperience,” said Whitt after the game. “But I'm proud of every guy in that room. They played the game the way it was supposed to be played. They played with pride and passion. What more can you ask for?”
With first baseman Freddie Freeman sidelined with a hamstring injury, Canada employed a youthful lineup against Mexico. They trailed just 3-2 heading into the sixth inning before Mexico slugger Randy Arozarena delivered a three-run double off reliever Cade Smith (Abbotsford, BC) to break the game open. Joey Meneses followed with a single to knock in Arozarena to give Mexico a 7-2 lead.
Left-hander Rob Zastryzny (Edmonton, Alta.) got the start for Canada. In the first, Zastryzny hit Arozarena, the leadoff hitter, and gave up an infield single to Meneses and then balked to move the runners to second and third before Rowdy Tellez drove them in with a one-out single.
Canada countered with a run in the bottom of the first when Edouard Julien (Quebec City, QC) clubbed a leadoff double and scored on a single by Otto Lopez (Montreal, QC). It was Lopez’s team-leading sixth RBI of the tournament.
Mexico answered in the top of the second when catcher Austin Barnes walked and Arozarena doubled him in to make the score 3-1.
Canadian catcher Bo Naylor (Mississauga, ON) homered to lead off the bottom of the fourth to narrow the score to 3-2 before Mexico broke it open in the sixth.
Mexico added two runs in the top of the seventh before Julien belted his second home run of the tournament to deep right field off Mexican left-hander Samuel Zazueta.
Tellez responded by leading off the eighth with a home run for Mexico to make it 10-3. That solo shot gave him three RBIs in the game.
Canada had seven hits in total, including another from Tyler O’Neill (Maple Ridge, BC) who finished 1-for-2 with two walks.
Jacob Robson (Windsor, ON) also had a strong game in left field for Canada. He singled and stole a base in the second inning and made a leaping catch at the wall on a hard hit ball by Meneses in the third.
Dasan Brown (Oakville, ON) got his first bat of the tournament when he was sent in to hit for Robson in the bottom of the ninth.
In all, Canada used eight pitchers in the loss. In his second appearance of the tournament, veteran right-hander Phillippe Aumont (Gatineau, QC) held Mexico off the scoreboard in his 1 2/3 innings in relief of Zastryzny.
Left-handers Andrew Albers (North Battleford, SK) and Ben Onyshko (Winnipeg, MB) made their first appearances of the 2023 World Baseball Classic.
Southpaw Jose Urquidy started for Mexico and held Canada to two runs in four innings to pick up the win.
Arozarena finished 2-for-2 with two doubles, two runs, two hit by pitches, a walk and five RBIs.
After the game, Whitt was asked about the young core of Canadian players that competed for him, including Julien, Brown, Owen Caissie (Burlington, ON), Denzel Clarke (Pickering, ON), Mitch Bratt (Newmarket, ON).
“Hopefully this was a great experience for them, number one,” said Whitt. “And next time they play in it they will not only have played a few more years in the minor leagues or the big leagues, this is going to help them down the road.
“And I think that I'm very confident that the team will bounce back in 2026 and be a force.”