Joey Meneses, Mexico Pummel Team USA In Stunning 11-5 Rout
PHOENIX—Joey Meneses was 13 years old when he sat in his living room and watched Mexico eliminate Team USA from the 2006 World Baseball Classic. For a baseball-obsessed teenager from Culiacan, watching his home country eliminate the mighty Americans on baseball’s biggest international stage was one of the most memorable moments of his youth. It also fueled a dream that one day, if the opportunity ever presented itself, he would play for Mexico in the WBC.
As part of his remarkable and improbable rise to the major leagues, Meneses got the opportunity to live out that dream this year. Seventeen years after watching his Mexican baseball idols beat Team USA, he did the job himself.
Meneses hit two home runs, including a backbreaking three-run shot in the fourth inning, to lead Mexico to a stunning 11-5 upset over Team USA in the World Baseball Classic on Sunday. The 30-year-old Nationals first baseman either scored or drove in six of Mexico’s first seven runs, leading the team to a stunning and resounding rout of the defending WBC champions.
“I have seen in the past World Baseball Classics, Mexico against the United States, and I always wanted to participate in one of these,” Meneses said through an interpreter. “Now that it's happened, it's a reality come true, helping Mexico and putting the Mexican name high.”
With a sellout crowd of 47,534 overwhelmingly backing it, Mexico never trailed and outplayed Team USA in every facet. Mexico outhit Team USA 15-8, needed two fewer pitchers to get through the game and played vastly sharper defense. At its peak, Mexico’s lead swelled to 11-2 in the eighth inning.
It was an outright domination, and one that was wholly unexpected—especially after Mexico’s shocking 5-4 loss to Colombia in its WBC opener.
“It's a very special day, I can tell you, in my life and the life of our players,” Mexico manager Benji Gil said. “Why? Because we're facing a team full of stars. It's Hall of Famers.
“It's a very beautiful day for all of Mexico.”
Meneses gave Mexico an immediate lead with a two-run homer in the first inning off Team USA starter Nick Martinez. He singled and scored in the third to extend the lead and all but sealed the game in the fourth.
With two on, two out and Mexico holding a 4-1 lead, Meneses stepped to the plate against Team USA reliever Brady Singer and launched a majestic 412-foot shot into the left-field stands, sending his Mexican teammates streaming out of the dugout in wild celebration. As Meneses admired his long home run, he unleashed a sky-high bat flip to punctuate the moment.
“I have no words to describe it,” Meneses said. “It was a very beautiful sensation with a lot of adrenaline, with the stadium full. There was a drone that came out alone when I threw the bat, and I was just enjoying the moment.”
Meneses had plenty of help. Randy Arozarena went 3-for-5 with two doubles. Rowdy Tellez went 3-for-5 with a pair of RBIs. Angels lefthander Patrick Sandoval pitched three scoreless innings with one run allowed and two strikeouts, including a swinging strikeout of his Angels teammate Mike Trout. Reliever Javier Assad followed with three scoreless innings of relief and allowed just one hit.
Team USA’s stars, meanwhile, were silent. Mookie Betts went 0-for-5. Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado went a combined 1-for-7. Pete Alonso went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts.
Team USA managed just three hits and one run through the first six innings. It scored four runs to polish the score late, long after the game was out of reach.
“I'm still processing what happened in this game,” Team USA manager Mark DeRosa said. “We'll get together as a coaching staff and figure that out.”
As ineffective as Team USA’s offense was, its defense was downright deleterious. Though it officially wasn’t charged with an error, Team USA failed to make plays repeatedly in the early innings, giving Mexico free baserunners and allowing it to pile up an early lead.
The shoddy defense started immediately when Arozarena led off the game with an infield single that Tim Anderson bobbled. Two batters later, Arozarena scored Mexico’s first run on Meneses’ homer.
The third inning unraveled entirely on Team USA. After recording the first two outs of the inning, Team USA’s infield failed to make three consecutive plays, any one of which would have ended the inning and kept Team USA’s early deficit at just one run.
Arenado failed to handle Meneses’ hard ground ball down the third base line for an infield single. Tellez followed with a bloop single to shallow center that second baseman Jeff McNeil outright whiffed on. Isaac Paredes followed with another infield single after McNeil, who was shifted up the middle, couldn’t get his feet under him after picking up the ball on the run and bounced the throw to first base, which Goldschmidt bobbled.
Menses scored on Paredes’ slow roller to make it 3-1, and the long inning forced Martinez to depart from the game. Though Martinez gave up five hits, only one—Meneses’ homer in the first—was out of reach of his infielders.
“We'll figure it out tomorrow,” DeRosa said. “We have to figure it out.”
Mexico and Team USA are both now 1-1 in pool play, and Mexico holds the tiebreaker with the head-to-head victory. Team USA still has a path to the quarterfinals but has little margin for error. With winnable games against Canada and Colombia remaining, Team USA is still in good position to advance.
Then again, its game against Mexico was considered winnable, too. With Meneses living out his childhood dream, Mexico quickly and emphatically quashed that notion.
“We know that there's other teams with more stars, but we have the heart and we have that want,” Meneses said. “We want to show everybody that in Mexico there's a lot of talent, and that we have a lot of triumphs.”