BROOKLYN, N.Y.—Five pitchers combined on a four-hitter and were backed by three long home runs as Israel defeated Great Britain 9-1 on Sunday in the deciding game of the final qualifier for the 2017 World Baseball Classic at MCU Park.
After losing the finale of their 2012 Qualifier to Spain, Israel (3-0) will now head to Seoul, South Korea, in March to compete against Taiwan, Korea and the Netherlands in WBC pool play.
“For me as a manager I’m connected to these guys that played in this thing and helped us get there,” Israel skipper and longtime Rockies coach Jerry Weinstein said. “For me I’d be very happy to take this team anywhere and play.”
On a perfect evening in the home of short-season Mets’ affiliate, the Brooklyn Cyclones, the first baserunner for Great Britain (2-2) did not reach until touted Diamondbacks prospect Jasrado Chisholm worked a one-out walk in the seventh.
Journeyman righthander Jason Marquis, drafted 35th overall by the Braves 20 years ago, struck out five over four perfect innings.
“How I try to pitch my whole career is keep the hitters guessing back and forth,” Marquis said. “I felt really good with my sinker. It had late life.”
The New York native (124-118, 4.61 in 15 big league seasons) also started the last matchup with Great Britain, pitching three innings of one-run ball before being lifted after 41 pitches so he would be eligible to start the finale under the WBC’s pitch count limitations.
Josh Zeid, who spent this past season with the Mets’ Double-A and Triple-A affiliates, followed with three scoreless frames for the win. The righthander also appeared in relief of the 38-year-old Marquis in Game One, finishing the qualifier with a 1.35 ERA and nine strikeouts over 6.2 important innings out of the bullpen.
Aside from an inside-the-park home run by Brazil’s Juan Carlos Muniz on Thursday against Pakistan, no player in the six-game qualifier had hit a round-tripper until the bottom of the fifth inning on Sunday.
Scott Burcham (3-for-4 with two runs scored), drafted in the 25th round by Colorado in 2015, led off the frame with a single that chased starter Spencer Kreisberg. The 6-foot-3 righty, 2-0, 0.69 in two starts for Great Britain during the 2014 European Championships, was also impressive. Despite taking the loss, Kreisberg threw four innings of one-run ball.
Thirty-one-year-old Blake Gailen, hitting in the No. 9 hole, lifted reliever Ali Knowles’ 3-1 pitch into the the empty set of bleachers in right-field to give Israel a 2-0 lead.
Zach Borenstein walked, prompting manager Liam Carroll to pull Knowles in place of Rei Martinez. Ryan Lavarnway (sixth-round pick by Boston in 2008) greeted the sidewinder rudely, crushing his 1-0 offering off of the left-field scoreboard to double the advantage to 4-0.
When the clubs first met on Thursday night, a four-run seventh inning sealed Israel’s 5-2 victory. They blanked Hall of Famer Barry Larkin’s Brazil squad 1-0 on Friday, earning a day off.
After dropping their first game of the Qualifier, Great Britain went on to trounce Pakistan 14-0 on Friday and edge Brazil 4-3 the next night; eliminating both teams in the process.
Borenstein made the score 5-0 with an RBI triple in the sixth.
Frustration boiled over for Great Britain in the top of the seventh inning, as Mets prospect Champ Stuart (1.233 OPS in the qualifier) was tossed from the game by home plate umpire Alberto Ruiz after striking out for the third time. Carroll ran out to join the argument, and was quickly ejected as well.
“Frustration about the consistency, that was the biggest thing for me. Champ was frustrated,” Carroll said after the dejecting loss. “We’ve got some very young professional players and short fuses from umpires aren’t gonna help those guys develop.”
Minor league veteran and fan favorite Cody Decker lined a two-out homer over the left field wall to give Israel a 6-0 cushion. Chants of “Co-dy, Co-dy” erupted from the contingent of fans sitting behind the team’s dugout.
“Today was special. Today was perfect,” Decker said. “This has been one of the best experiences I’ve had in professional baseball. This means a lot to me.”
Great Britain got its first hit of the game with two outs in the eighth, a single to right by Albert Cartwright that dropped in front of Borenstein. He advanced to second on an error as the right fielder let the ball get past him, and scored the team’s only run on a single by Chavez Young.
Israel continued to pile on in a sloppy bottom of the inning, adding three more runs on three hits, a walk and an error against two relievers to take a 9-1 lead.
Playing with heavy hearts on a day where the baseball world lost one of its best and brightest stars, a moment of silence was observed prior to the playing of the national anthems for Marlins ace Jose Fernandez, who was killed early Sunday in a boating accident off Miami Beach at the age of 24. A photo of the two-time All-Star was shown on the left field scoreboard, as both teams bowed their heads along each baseline.
“Number one, a big league player died today and it kind of puts this in perspective,” Carroll said after the game.