In a rematch of their 2003 Olympic qualifier in Panama, the United States and Mexico again took a tie game into the ninth inning.
This time, the U.S. got the hit that mattered, when Jarrod Saltalamacchia (Braves) grounded a single to right field to drive in Brad Snyder (Indians) from third base in the last of the ninth for a 5-4 victory in the second game of CONCEBE Regional Olympic qualifying tournament Wednesday.
While Team USA's rally may not have been as dramatic as Luis Garcia's home run in the ninth inning in Panama, it enabled the U.S. to avenge a 2-1 loss there that kept the Americans from defending their 2000 gold medal at the 2004 Athens Games.
"We definitely had a little payback in mind,'' Snyder said.
A budding rivalry?
"It is now,” Snyder added. “These guys being as close as they are to us, they want to beat us when they get a chance. They want to show us what they have down there. We want to do the same.''
Snyder opened the ninth with a two-strike bloop double to short right that fell just out of the reach of second baseman Flavio Romero. Brendan Harris (Nationals) pushed a bunt past the mound, and both runners were safe when the ball rolled to the infield dirt. Saltalamacchia hit the first pitch for the game-winner.
"No worries. I knew the infield was in, so I just wanted to get a pitch to hit. You know that run is going to get in sooner or later,'' Saltalamacchia said.
"I broke my bat on it, but I'll take it,'' Snyder said of his double. "I thought it was going to be more shallow than it was. But fly balls were kinda tough, so I was just busting my hump to get to second if he didn't get it.''
Canada (2-0) beat winless Guatemala, 12-0, when three pitchers combined in a seven-inning no-hitter Wednesday. The U.S. beat Guatemala, 23-0, on Tuesday Team USA righthander Adam Bass today will face Nicaragua (1-1), which beat Panama (1-1) on Wednesday.
"It goes as a wakeup call,'' Snyder said. "They played us tough. We are not going to roll over every team.''
U.S. stater Jered Weaver (Angels), a veteran of USA Baseball’s college national team in 2003 and its 2004 Golden Spikes Award winner, struck out the side in the first and second innings, relying mainly on a dominant mid-90s fastball, before Mexico struck for two runs with two outs in the third.
Team USA shortstop Brandon Wood (Angels) took a single away from Manuel Velez with a pickup behind second base to open the third, but Weaver walked No. 9 hitter Rolando Acosta (a White Sox draftee in 2003 out of Pima, Ariz., CC) with two outs. Romero lined a tripled into the right field corner to break the shutout before Leo Arauz singled to center to make it 2-0. Luis Carlos Garcia followed with a double to the gap in left-center before Weaver got cleanup hitter Francisco Mendez to fly out to center.
Team USA got its first run off lefthander Oscar Rivera, who pitched a perfect game for Yucatan in the Mexican League playoffs this summer, in the fourth without getting the ball out of the infield. Howie Kendrick (Angels) beat out an infield single and took second when shortstop Acosta threw the ball wide of first. Kendrick took third on a broken-bat groundout and scored on a cued grounder to first base by Ryan Shealy (Rockies).
The U.S. took a 4-2 lead with three two-out runs in the fifth. Saltalamacchia (Braves) singled before Lastings Milledge (Mets) walked on a 3-2 pitch. Shane Victorino (Phillies) singled to left to tie the game, the runners taking second and third on a throw to the plate.
Kendrick reached on another throwing error by Acosta and both baserunners scored, the speedy Victorino running all the way and making it without a throw.
Mexico tied the game at 4 on Velez's two-run single in the sixth, after Mendez singled to open the inning and Edgar Quintero was credited with a double when left fielder Milledge appeared to lose a deep but playable fly ball in the sun near the warning track.
"We gave them a couple of runs. They gave us a couple of runs,'' U.S. manager Davey Johnson said. "I tip my hat to their pitching. That lefthander (Rivera) was tough. Used both sides of the plate. He was outstanding.''
In Canada’s no-hitter, Jonathan Lockwood (Mariners), Steve Green (Tigers) and former big leaguer Aaron Myette combined on the seven-inning no-no. Lockwood, who pitched at short-season Everett and low Class A Wisconsin this season, threw five innings with five strikeouts and one walk, while Green and Myette threw an inning apiece. The game was called early by the 10-run mercy rule.
“I think it was just about concentrating on your pitches, throwing strikes and letting the batters get themselves out,” Lockwood said. “We just wanted to get the win, and I wanted to make sure I got out there and made things quick to get our batters back up to the plate and stay hot.”
Catcher Max St. Pierre (Tigers), playing for the Canadian national team for the first time, went 3-for-4 with an RBI, and Jeremy Ware hit a two-run homer to pace Canada’s offense.