Isaac Paredes, Luis Urias lead Mexico to World Baseball Classic semifinals

Isaac Paredes, Luis Urias lead Mexico to World Baseball Classic semifinals
Paredes. the 24-year-old third baseman, hit a home run and a two-RBI single. Urias, the 25-year-old second baseman, batted in the go-ahead run for a huge comeback win. Mexico will face Japan in the second semifinal on Monday, 20 March.

Isaac Paredes homered and hit a clutch two-RBI single to lead World No. 5 Mexico to a huge 5-4 comeback win over No. 13 Puerto Rico in the third World Baseball Classic quarterfinal in front of 35,817 fans at loanDepot Park in Miami, USA.

"We are representing Mexico," the 24-year-old Tampa Bay Rays third baseman said. "It's a lot of adrenaline that you feel on the field. I had never felt that adrenaline, even when I debuted in the Majors. It was beautiful."

Mexico will face Japan in the second semifinal on Monday, 20 March.

Puerto Rico shocked Mexico's stellar starter Julio Urias with four runs on back-to-back home runs by second baseman Javier Baez and left fielder Eddie Rosario.

It was all the runs Mexico would allow. Urias left after four innings, and four relievers limited the 2013 and 2017 World Baseball Classic runner-ups to four hits. Lefty Jolo Romero got two outs for the win, and Giovanny Gallegos struck out Kike Hernandez with the potential tying run at second to end the game and earn the save.

Paredes put Mexico on the scoreboard in the bottom of the second, turning the third pitch by starter Marcus Stroman into a solo home run.

Puerto Rico took a 4-2 lead into the bottom of the seventh and gave the ball to Cincinnati Reds star reliever Alexis Diaz. Catcher Austin Barnes hit a leadoff double, and Diaz loaded the bases with back-to-back walks.

Puerto Rico then handed the ball to Minnesota Twins closer Jorge Lopez, who got two quick outs. Paredes got to his fourth pitch and turned it into a two-RBI single to tie the game.

Also Urias got to the third pitch and delivered what would become the winning hit.

Boston Red Sox slugger Alex Verdugo scored the go-ahead run. "To take home that fifth run, [I could have done] anything," commented an emotional Verdugo at the end of the game. "This is some of the best baseball I've ever had in my life. This is what we live for."

In the top of the eighth, Mexico's left fielder Randy Arozarena robbed Puerto Rico's third baseman Emmanuel Rivera of an extra-base hit, preventing at least one run.

"We are showing what Mexican players can do at the highest level of baseball," said Mexico's manager Benji Gil postgame. "This keeps opening doors. Before the tournament, you could wonder if Mexico could compete with Puerto Rico, the US, or Japan. Right now, you can say Mexico can compete with any team participating in the World Baseball Classic."

"It was an intense game," commented Puerto Rico's manager Yadier Molina. "We were off to a good start, then Mexico's pitchers adjusted to limit our offence. You've got to give them credit. In the end, both teams played well and could have won."

"I'm delighted with our group of players," he added. "Superstars just took the field and played hard for their country."

The last quarterfinal, No. 3 United States-No. 6 Venezuela, is scheduled to take place in Miami on Saturday, 18 March, at 7 pm local time. The winner will face No. 8 Cuba in the first semifinal on Sunday, 19 March.