Mexico broke open a close game in the eighth inning to take an 8-2 win over the United States at the Premier12 baseball tournament Sunday in Guadalajara, Mexico, leaving the U.S. needing a win in the group-stage finale to advance to the final round of the Olympic qualifier.
The top team from the Americas will clinch a spot in the 2020 Olympics. Other teams from North and South America must play another qualifying tournament next spring to claim a berth in the small six-team field in baseball’s return to the Olympic stage. Players from Major League Baseball teams’ 40-man rosters are not participating, though most U.S. players and many from other teams are from MLB teams’ AAA affiliates.
On Sunday, Mexico jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning with against Boston Red Sox prospect Tanner Houck. Erik Kratz, a 39-year-old catcher who has played in the majors with nine different teams, and Boston infield prospect Bobby Dalbec tied the game with home runs in the third and fourth innings, but a passed ball in the fifth inning put Mexico back in front 3-2.
U.S. pitchers struck out 15 batters, led by Houck with six in 4.1 innings, but the host country got five runs against former Minnesota Twins pitcher Caleb Thielbar and Yankees AAA pitcher JP Feyereisen in the eighth. Mexico first baseman Efren Navarro, who played a few years with his hometown Los Angeles Angels, drove in two with a single before catcher Ali Solis, who briefly played in the majors with San Diego and Tampa Bay.
The U.S. opened the tournament with a 9-0 rout Saturday over the Netherlands, with Dalbec hitting a grand slam in the fifth to put away the game while five pitchers combined to give up only two hits.
Monday’s must-win game is against the Dominican Republic, which also beat the Netherlands and lost to Mexico. The U.S. will send Parker Dunshee, a former Wake Forest pitcher who rose to Oakland’s AAA team this year, against Carlos Sano, who pitches in the San Francisco organization.
The game will streamed on the World Baseball Softball Confederation’s Facebook page at 9 p.m. ET.
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