In the biggest upset of the 2013 World Baseball Classic, Brazil defeated the home country Panama, 3-2 in the opening game of the Panama City Qualifier. Over in New Taipei City, the host Chinese Taipei blew out the Philippines 16-0 in a game that ended after seven innings by the mercy rule. In the other New Taipei City qualifying game, New Zealand won their first ever WBC game 12-2 over Thailand in eight innings. Thailand has now been eliminated from the tournament.
The big news on Thursday was Brazil's upset of Panama. The host country took an early lead in the bottom of the second inning when former Cub Jose Macias singled off of White Sox prospect Andre Rienzo, scoring former Yankee Ruben Rivera. But Brazil took the lead in the top of the third when they plated two runs off of Panamanian starter Paolo Espino, who pitched for the Indians Triple-A club in Columbus for parts of the past three seasons. The first run came after Royals farmhand Paulo Orlando hit a one-out triple and then scored on a single by the next batter, Rays third baseman Leonardo Reginatto, who played short-season A ball for the Rays this past year. After a single by Yan Gomes sent Reginatto to third, he scored with two outs on an error by Panamanian first baseman Carlos Lee.
Panama would tie the game back up in the bottom of the third when Rays farmhand Isaias Velasquez led off the inning with a single and went to third on a stolen base and a wild pitch by Rienzo. He would then score on a one-out sacrifice fly.
Brazil would take back the lead in the top of the fifth inning when the first two batters of the inning, Reginatto and Gomes, reached on a walk and a single off of Braves reliever Ernesto Silva, who pitched for low-A Rome this past season. A sacrifice bunt put runners on second and third with one out. After a strikeout, JC Muniz singled to center field, scoring Reginatto. Gomes was thrown out at the plate by center fielder Ruben Rivera.
The story of the game at that point became Astros pitching prospect Murilo Gouvea, who pitched for Lexington in the Sally League this past year. Gouvea retired the first ten Panamanian batters he faced, most of whom had major league experience. Brazilian manager Barry Larkin decided to ride Gouvea as long as he could, but when he gave up back-to-back singles in the eighth inning to Carlos Ruiz and Ruben Tejada, he pulled Gouvea for Kesley Kondo, who retired Ruben Rivera and Jose Macias to end the threat. When Panama failed to score in the ninth inning, Brazil won the biggest game in their baseball history.
I'm not going to say they celebrated like they won the FIFA World Cup, but it was close. Orlando attended the post-game press conference wearing the Brazilian flag.
Panama now goes into the losers bracket of the modified double-elimination tournament and Brazil will take on either Nicaragua or Colombia for the right to play in the Championship game.
Over in New Taipei City, the games haven't been nearly as interesting. Chinese Tapei is demonstrating what would happen if you took a Double-A minor league ball club and had them play a bunch of high school teams. Athletics prospect Ryan Pineda got a double in the fourth inning for the Philippines, but that was the only hit Chinese Tapei allowed. Meanwhile, they scored three runs in the third inning, eight in the fifth and five in the seventh to win their second game by the mercy rule. In two WBC games so far, the host country has outscored their opponents 26-0.
Once again, the stadium was rocking in New Taiwan City as 10,911 fans showed up to cheer on their national team.
In the other game, New Zealand won their first ever WBC game by eliminating Thailand 12-2 in eight innings. New Zealand scored in each of the eight innings. Johnny Damon, in what might be his last game, was 2 for 4 and scored one of Thailand's two runs.
If you watched the Panamanian games at worldbaseballclassic.com, you know that the announcers for the game are Kane County Cougars announcer Wayne Randazzo and Los Angeles Angels broadcaster Jose Mota. So if you're planning on listening to Cougars games next summer (and why wouldn't you be?) you can get a taste of what the games will sound like. Wayne and Jose did a great job and I'm looking forward to listening to him call the Cubs prospects next season.