My first full day in Arizona was an exciting one. Pool D in the World Baseball Classic began on Thursday at Salt River Field with Italy facing Mexico. When many people talk about the second round in Miami, they say three Latin teams and the USA.
Well, Italy may have something to say about that.
Both teams’ offenses were awake in the first inning, as Italy scored two runs off Rodrigo Lopez. They could have scored more, but Drew Butera struck out with the bases loaded to end the inning. Mexico responded with three runs of their own in the bottom of the inning courtesy of Jorge Cantu’s bases clearing double. Mexico put across another run in the second inning before the pitching settled down.
However, Italy greeted new pitcher Alfredo Aceves with a one out single and a two-run home run from Butera to tie the game at 4-4.
Mexico finally got to Italian reliever Tiago DaSilva in the 5th inning (his fourth inning of work). However they only scored one run to take a 5-4 lead. That lead held up until the top of the ninth, as SF Giants closer Sergio Romo entered to record the save and give Mexico a 1-0 record.
Instead, maybe Romo was a little over amped to pitch for his parents’ home country. After he recorded an out, he allowed a double to Nick Punto before Chris Denorfia singled. That brought up Anthony Rizzo, who hadn’t done much of anything during the game. After a long at-bat, he hit a fly ball to deep left field (I was sitting in the grass seating beyond the left field wall). Edgar Gonzalez drifted back, but he hadn’t looked good out there the whole game. It hit off his glove and two runs scored. It was a catch he should have made. Romo escaped without further damage.
That brought in Italy’s closer, Jason Grilli of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who immediately made it interesting: he gave up a single to the first batter he faced. He did record two straight outs before walking Luis Cruz. That brought up Adrian Gonzalez and where things got interesting. Grilli was ahead in the count and looked to have struck out AGone to end the game. Instead, the home plate umpire shrunk his strike zone. Grilli was mad. He was yelling at the ump, who then looked like he wanted to fight Grilli. Butera had to come between them, as did third baseman Alex Liddi. When things settled down, Grilli hit AGone to loss the bases. He then fell behind Cantu 3-1 before getting him to ground out to second base (who had just come into the game) to end the game and set off the celebration by Italy.
Salt River Field was my first Cactus League ballpark and I loved it. It was just beautiful, and the fine day didn’t hurt matters. Tomorrow’s WBC game between Italy and Canada has been moved to Chase Field due to the incoming bad weather. I’ll be there and will I see another shocking upset?
From the game, we went to Casino Arizona for a really good buffet dinner. I had really wanted to play some Bingo, but it was crowded and full of older people who seemed like they were pros.
*On a side note, Romo was awesome prior to the game, signing autographs, taking pictures, and making fans happy. My mom and I would be two of those fans.
**I was a little disappointed in the turnout. The crowd got loud, especially in the ninth. But there were plenty of empty seats and plenty of seats on the berm to sprawl out and bask in the glorious sunny skies.