MIAMI — They’d rallied all the way in which again, erasing an early four-run deficit, but when Mexico was to advance to its first World Baseball Traditional semifinal and remove a star-studded Puerto Rico staff, one other massive play wanted to be made.
Randy Arozarena, in fact, delivered it.
Clinging to a one-run lead within the eighth inning of Friday night time’s quarterfinal matchup, Arozarena raced close to the left-center-field fence and made an inconceivable leaping catch up in opposition to it, erasing what would have been a game-tying extra-base hit and serving to Mexico, his adopted dwelling nation, maintain on to a 5-4 victory in entrance of a sellout crowd at LoanDepot Park.
Arozarena turned a family title whereas dominating all through the 2020 postseason. When his Tampa Bay Rays reached the World Collection, he offered three dwelling runs. Arozarena was reminded of that late Friday night time and was requested to establish his greatest second on a baseball area.
“2023, World Baseball Traditional, eighth inning, that catch,” he mentioned in Spanish, drawing fun from a packed interview room.
Arozarena, 28, was born and raised in Cuba. He left the island in 2015 and arrived in Mexico, the place he performed winter ball, had a daughter and fell in love along with his new dwelling. He turned a citizen of Mexico in April of final 12 months solely as a result of he wished to signify the nation on this World Baseball Traditional — and he has taken full benefit.
Arozarena was the MVP of Pool C, going 7-for-14 whereas driving in 9 runs and scoring six others as Mexico received three of its 4 video games. He then made the most important play in arguably the most important sport in Mexican baseball historical past, sending Mexico right into a semifinal matchup in opposition to powerhouse Japan on Monday.
“I really feel unimaginable,” Arozarena mentioned. “I’ve had some unimaginable moments for my profession.”
Puerto Rico, enjoying within the wake of Edwin Diaz‘s sobering knee damage, jumped out to a 4-0 lead within the first inning in opposition to Mexican ace Julio Urias, getting back-to-back dwelling runs from Javier Baez and Eddie Rosario. However Puerto Rico did not muster a lot offense the remainder of the way in which, and Mexico lastly bridged the hole whereas all the way down to its final seven outs.
Alexis Diaz entered to his brother’s well-known walk-out tune, “Narco,” however proceeded to load the bases with none out, giving up a double to Austin Barnes and back-to-back walks to Arozarena and Alex Verdugo. Jorge Lopez got here out of the bullpen to document two fast outs. However Isaac Paredes lined a two-run single to left area and Luis Urias dumped a base hit into shallow proper, giving Mexico its first lead of the sport.
Edwin Diaz, who tore the patellar tendon in his proper knee throughout Puerto Rico’s on-field celebration following its win in opposition to the Dominican Republic on Wednesday night time, reached out to Alexis after the sport to inform him he went via comparable conditions in 2019. He instructed him to dam all the surface noise and to maintain believing in himself.
“It has been actually painful for me,” Alexis Diaz, seemingly on the verge of tears, mentioned of not having his brother with him. “I wished each of us to be collectively within the Traditional. Not having him right here has been actually powerful for me. However I am a warrior and I went on the market. I could not accomplish what I wished, however I’ll maintain going ahead this season.”
Puerto Rico had an opportunity to avenge Diaz and tie the sport the next inning, with a runner on first and Emmanuel Rivera uncorking a deep drive to left-center area. However Arozarena, who has awed followers along with his play and dazzled teammates along with his cowboy boots throughout this event, would not have it. After he secured the catch and chucked the baseball again towards the infield, Arozarena settled onto the warning monitor and stretched his arms out extensive, his palms uncovered and his mouth agape, one other signature pose from the Cuban-born outfielder who fell in love with Mexico.
Mentioned Mexican supervisor Benji Gil: “He is a child who’s extremely centered on doing every part inside his energy to assist this household of Mexican warriors get an opportunity to play for a world championship.”