World Baseball Classic: Mexico comes back to beat Puerto Rico, advances to semifinals

Mar 17, 2023; Miami, Florida, USA; Mexico third baseman Isaac Paredes (17) scores after hitting a home run during the third inning against Puerto Rico at LoanDepot Park. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
Isaac Paredes was the hero for Mexico on Friday at the World Baseball Classic. (Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports)

A nightmare start didn't stop Mexico, and now it's headed to the World Baseball Classic semifinals for the first time after a 5-4 win Friday over Puerto Rico.

The game started with four runs for Puerto Rico in the top of the first inning, including back-to-back home runs by Javier Baez and Eddie Rosario. Puerto Rico, which reached the game in excruciating fashion, was all over top Mexico pitcher Julio Urias, the Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander who won the National League ERA title last season.

Mexico buckled down from there. Urias, Javier Assad, JoJo Romero, Jake Sanchez and Giovany Gallegos didn't allow a run after the first inning, with Sanchez getting some help from WBC breakout star Randy Arozarena on a would-be extra-base hit in the eighth inning.

In case you were wondering how much these players care about the WBC, Arozarena told Fox's Ken Rosenthal that he places that catch above any home run he has hit in MLB, including the three he hit in the 2020 World Series:

“That was better than any home run I’ve ever hit in the big leagues," he said. "That was better than the home run I hit in the World Series. That catch was the best.”

The offense came in spurts in this quarterfinal, with Mexico third baseman Isaac Paredes, who plays for the Tampa Bay Rays, putting his country on the board in the second inning with a solo home run. Alex Verdugo provided Mexico's second run with a bases-loaded single in the fifth inning, and that was followed by the real damage in the seventh.

Paredes, who reached base four times, singled with the bases loaded and two outs to tie the game. Milwaukee Brewers second baseman Luis Urias followed with a single to give Mexico the lead:

Mexico, which reached the quarterfinals with a first-place finish in Pool C, will now face powerhouse Japan on Monday in Miami on Fox Sports 1. With a win in that game, it would get the U.S., Venezuela or Cuba in the 2023 WBC final.