SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (CBS/AP) — Anthony Rizzo hit a two-run double off San Francisco Giants closer Sergio Romo in the ninth inning and Jason Grilli escaped a bases-loaded jam in the bottom half to help Italy rally to beat Mexico 6-5 in the opening game of Pool D in the World Baseball Classic on Thursday.
Romo (0-1) entered to a loud ovation from the Mexican fans, but gave up three hits, the last a fly ball by Rizzo to the warning track in left that Mexican outfielder Edgar Gonzalez couldn’t handle in the sunlight at Salt River Fields.
Grilli gave up a single, a walk and hit Adrian Gonzalez with a pitch, but closed it out by getting Jorge Cantu on a ground out.
Nick Pugliese (1-0) allowed no hits in 1 2-3 innings.
Cantu hit a three-run double in the first inning and Eduardo Arredondo scored three runs for Mexico, which plays the United States next.
Rizzo, the Cubs’ starting first baseman, got his hit after Nick Punto hit a one-out double off Romo and Chris DiNorfia singled.
Grilli, the Pittsburgh Pirates’ closer, gave up a leadoff single to Efren Navarro and pinch-runner Walter Ibarra moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. Grilli got Ramiro Pena on a soft liner to shortstop and thought he had struck out Luis Cruz on what was called ball four. Grilli was furious about the call and hit Gonzalez with a pitch to load the bases, but gathered himself to get the final out.
Drew Butera hit a two-run homer for Italy, which plays Canada next.
Italy and Mexico combined for five runs in a 40-minute first inning before settling down in the opening round-robin game at Salt River Fields, spring training home of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies.
Italy jumped on Mexico starter Rodrigo Lopez right away, getting run-scoring singles from Alex Liddi and Mike Costanzo before the right-hander struck out Butera with the bases loaded to end the inning.
Mexico answered in the bottom half of the 40-minute inning against Italian starter John Mariotti, loading the bases for Cantu’s three-run double to the gap in right-center.
Pena made it 4-2 with a run-scoring double just inside the right-field line off Da Silva after Arredondo singled and moved to second on center fielder DeNorfia’s error. The run was charged to Mariotti, who allowed four runs—three earned—on four hits in 1 2-3 innings.
Lopez, a reliever with the Philadelphia Phillies, allowed two runs on four hits in three innings before being replaced by Juan Aceves, who gave up a tying two-run homer to Butera that just cleared the wall in left.
Arredondo worked his get-on-base magic in the fifth inning, leading off with a single, moving over on Pena’s sacrifice bunt, then scoring on a double by Cruz that put Mexico up 5-4.
Not much happened after that, but it quickly changed in the ninth, giving Italy an unexpected victory before it faces the Canadians on Friday in a game that was moved to Chase Field due to a threat of rain.
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