SEE ALSO: WBC Rosters/Schedule
NEW YORK—Israel snapped a tie with a four-run seventh inning, defeating Great Britain 5-2 in the second game of a day-night doubleheader to open the final qualifier for the 2017 World Baseball Classic. Brazil routed Pakistan 10-0 in the early game on Thursday at MCU Park, home of the short-season Mets’ affiliate, the Brooklyn Cyclones.
After a hot, sunny afternoon in Coney Island that saw the mercy rule invoked in the seventh inning of Brazil’s victory, temperatures cooled off signifcantly to start the nightcap. So did the bats for the first two-thirds of the game.
Mets prospect Champ Stuart (3-for-4 with two runs scored)—ranked 23rd in the organization following the 2014 season—led off the second for Great Britain with a hard-hit double down the left field line. After a groundout, Todd Isaacs singled to right on the first pitch. The swift Stuart, who has stolen 101 bases in 335 minor league games, slid in ahead of the throw for the game’s first run.
Israel responded immediately in the bottom of the frame. Red Sox farmhand and minor league veteran Cody Decker crushed a liner off the left field wall for a leadoff double. Ex-Met Josh Satin grounded to third, advancing an aggressive Decker. Rhett Wiseman, Washington’s No. 21 prospect entering 2016, hit a routine grounder to the right side. First baseman Jordan Serena threw wide of the plate, allowing a charging Decker to score and knotting the game at 1-1.
Neither team would score again for several innings, thanks to dominating pitching on both sides.
Thirty-eight-year-old Jason Marquis was effective through three for Israel, allowing only the one run on two hits and a walk. The journeyman righthander, who pitched for nine teams over 15 big league seasons (most recently with Cincinnati in 2015), was lifted after just 41 pitches.
WBC rules dictate that any player that throws 50 or more pitches in one outing cannot return until after four days of rest. Manager Jerry Weinstein lifted Marquis, Israel’s most experienced arm who was drafted 35th overall by Atlanta back in 1996, so that he could return later in the qualifiers.
“We’re trying to win this thing and not necessarily extend anybody, and every decision we make is based on not only this game but winning the whole tournament,” Weinstein said. “We made a lot of pitching changes tonight and most of them were dictated by pitch count.”
Josh Zeid, who spent this past season with the Mets’ Double-A and Triple-A affiliates, was excellent in relief of Marquis, striking out six over 3 2/3 innings of one-run ball. The 6-foot-4 righty was on the mound when Israel dropped the final game of the 2012 WBC Qualifier to Spain, and he’s been raring to get back ever since.
“I feel like I let myself down last time. We won the first two games, beat one team, and then we lost to the same team the last game. It was really disappointing,” Zeid said. “I worked the last three or four years to make sure that I was available to be in this tournament.”
Michael Roth, meanwhile, seemed to be on cruise control for most of the night for Great Britain. He scattered six hits over six dominating innings, striking out four and walking none while throwing 78 pitches. The 26-year-old has appeared in 23 big league games since 2013 including one with the Rangers this year, but spent most of the season with Triple-A Round Rock where he was 11-5, 2.97 in 28 games (23 starts).
“We just kind of attacked them early,” Roth said. “We were working well and working quick and that’s how I like to pitch anyway so just give me the ball and let me get rid of it as fast as possible.”
He was lifted after the sixth because of another WBC pitch count limitation, one where there is a hard cap of 85 no matter the circumstance. The lefthander was not happy with the rule, as the following inning would prove costly for his team.
“It’s just unfortunate that we have pitch counts. Granted, the seventh inning could have happened with me on the mound anyway,” Roth said. “My job is to throw a baseball. I throw 78 pitches in my first start of the year and I throw 78 pitches in my last start of the year because we have a maximum pitch count . . . That’s the unfortunate part of tonight. Anything could have happened in the seventh inning if I go back out there and there’s no pitch count, but I’m impressed with our guys. We fought. We had a lot of heart.”
Isaacs’ second RBI of the night came in the top of the seventh against Zeid, a sacrifice fly scoring Stuart and giving Great Britain a short-lived 2-1 lead.
Wiseman (13 home runs and 75 RBIs with low Class A Hagerstown this season) led off the bottom of the inning by grounding reliever Vaughan Harris’s first pitch just past the mound for an infield single. Scott Burcham, drafted in the 25th round by Colorado in 2015, followed by crushing a line drive into the left-field corner for a double. Mike Meyers tied the score at 2-all with a sacrifice fly to deep left.
Zach Borenstein, who twice ranked in the Prospect Handbook (2013 with the Angels and 2014 with the Diamondbacks) followed with a hard-hit liner for an RBI single. The large contingent of Israel fans among the announced crowd of 3,919 erupted as Burcham crossed the plate to give Israel its first lead of the night at 3-2.
Harris was pulled after a walk to Ryan Lavarnway (3-for-4) in favor of 19-year-old Nolan Bond, who made four relief appearances this year as a freshman at Houston. The youngster didn’t fare much better, surrendering an RBI single up the middle to pinch-hitter Ike Davis, the former Mets and Yankees first baseman, that made the score 4-2.
“Pinch-hitting is never the easiest task but I got in a great situation where I all I had to do was actually hit a fly ball there and I’d get an RBI and we’d take the lead,” said Davis, who briefly played for the Yankees this season. “He’s actually got a pretty sneaky little fastball and I kept fouling it back and got to a 3-2 count a couple of times and finally got a pitch I could handle and I squared it up.”
Decker followed with a fly ball to deep left that was snagged by a leaping Reshard Munroe against the wall, driving home Nate Freiman with a sacrifice fly that extended Israel’s lead to 5-2.
Big league veteran Craig Breslow, who appeared in 15 games with the Marlins earlier this year, pitched a scoreless inning for the win. Brad Goldberg, who had a 2.90 ERA in 42 games for Triple-A Charlotte this year, retired three straight batters with the tying run at the plate in the ninth for the save.
The teams meet again on Friday for another doubleheader, with Great Britain and Pakistan vying to stave off elimination. The four-day tournament decides who earns the final entry into pool play in March.