In a sometimes sloppy but always thrilling game, Spain defeated Israel 9-7 in ten innings to win the Jupiter Qualifier and advance to the main round of the 2013 World Baseball Classic.
These two teams entered the qualifier as the favorites, as both were made up of players from the Americas with professional experience. Israel was considered the stronger of the two teams as it had more experience in both the majors and Triple-A than Spain had, but the closeness of the two teams was demonstrated on Friday when Israel beat Spain, 4-2, in the first meeting between the two teams.
Israel took an early lead in the bottom of the first with back-to-back RBI singles by Shawn Green and Josh Satin (Mets Triple-A Buffalo) off of Spanish starter Eric Gonzalez, who played for Lake Erie of the independent Frontier League the past two seasons, but pitched for four years in the Padres organization before that.
Spain scored a run in the top of the third inning on an RBI single by third baseman Jesus Golindano to cut the lead to 2-1. But left fielder Cody Decker (Padres Double-A San Antonio) got the run right back with an RBI single in the bottom of the inning, which was the last hit that Israel would get until the seventh inning.
Spain took their first lead in this see-saw battle in the top of the fourth when five singles, including four straight with one out, scored three runs to make it 4-3. But Israel scored three runs in the bottom of the fourth without the benefit of a hit. Spanish pitchers Leslie Nacar and Antonio Nacar walked four batters and hit two more to account for the three runs.
The wildness of Spanish pitching and the inability of Israel to hit it was a running theme of this game. Israel only had seven hits in this ten inning game: six singles and a double. But they were able to stay in the game because the Spanish pitchers walked 11 batters and hit six more.
But in the fifth inning it was Israel reliever David Colvin (Mariners Low-A Clinton) who had control problems, walking three batters and forcing in a run to get Spain to within a run. After a scoreless sixth, Spain scored a run in the seventh when a lead-off single by catcher Adrian Nieto (Nationals Low-A Hagerstown) was followed by a bunt single by left fielder Gabriel Suarez (Dodgers High-A Rancho Cucamonga), in which Israel second baseman Jack Marder (Mariners High-A High Desert) failed to get over to cover first base quickly enough. A sacrifice bunt and a ground out later and Spain had tied the score at six.
Spain took the lead in the top of the eighth inning on an RBI single by shortstop Yunesky Sanchez (Independent Laredo). But Israel tied the game right back up in the bottom of the eighth when Spain put forty-eight year old Cuban Remigio Leal, who still pitches in the Italian League, into the game to start the inning. He gave up a double to lead-off hitter Ben Guez (Tigers Triple-A Toledo). A fly out to right sent Guez to third and a passed ball scored him.
The score stayed tied at seven until the tenth inning when Israel pitcher Josh Zeid (Astros Double-A Corpus Christi) walked the first batter and hit the second batter, who was trying to sacrifice. After a sacrifice bunt put runners on second and third with one out, Zeid got Spanish first baseman Barbaro Canizares, the only Spanish player with major league experience, to ground out to third on one pitch. But then Yunesky Sanchez struck again with a two-out, two-run single to center field that turned out to be the game and tournament winner.
It was ironic that in a game in which Spain walked eleven and hit six, it was a walk and a hit batter by Israel that ended up costing them the game.
Yunesky Sanchez was the hero of the game and he was 4 for 6 with three RBI and two runs scored. Gabriel Suarez was 3 for 4 with a double and a walk. He scored two runs. Second baseman Paco Figueroa, center fielder Engel Beltre and third baseman Jesus Golindano each had two hits.
Ivan Granados got the win with 2.2 innings of scoreless relief. He didn't allow any hits, but in the spirit of the Spanish pitching staff, he did walk two and hit one batter. Granados struck out two.
Josh Zeid took the loss for Israel. Over two innings, he gave up two runs on a hit, a walk and a hit batter. Zeid struck out two.
Notes: In the other WBC game, Germany eliminated Great Britain 16-1 in seven innings in Regensburg, Germany, early yesterday. Germany's first four batters reached base and they led 3-0 after half an inning and were up 5-0 by the second. This game was never in doubt, and Germany will get their rematch with Canada Monday at noon Chicago time.
Monday's Germany/Canada game will be televised live on the MLB Network and over the internet at www.worldbaseballclassic.com. May it be half as entertaining as Spain and Israel's game was.