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Japan stuns Mexico to advance to World Baseball Classic title game

Walk-off win sets up USA vs. Japan for the WBC title on Tuesday

World Baseball Classic Semifinals: Mexico v Japan Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images

The best game of the World Baseball Classic featured a furious rally by Japan, who scored in each of the last three innings, with Munetaka Murakami’s two-run double off the center field wall delivering a walk-off win over Mexico, 6-5 on Monday night at loanDepot Park in Miami, advancing to the World Baseball Classic championship game.

Down one in the ninth, Shohei Ohtani doubled to open the ninth, followed by a walk to Masataka Yoshida off Cardinals closer Giovanny Gallegos, setting the stage for Murakami.

It was an incredible pitching performance by Patrick Sandoval and Jose Urquidy for Mexico in limiting Japan, who scored no fewer than seven runs in any of its previous five games in the tournament.

Japan didn’t score until the seventh inning on Monday, but scored in each of the final three innings to remain undefeated in the tournament.

Tuesday night’s championship game features the two highest-scoring teams in the World Baseball Classic. Japan has 53 runs in six games, just ahead of the 49 scored by the United States.

Japan’s first runs came when a single ended Urquidy’s relief work, bringing in southpaw JoJo Romero, who walked Shohei Ohtani in the seventh. Another left-handed batter, Yoshida — who signed a five-year deal with the Red Sox in December — tied things up in the seventh by going down and getting this pitch, golfing it just inside the foul pole in right

That offset Mexico’s first salvo four innings earlier.

Just like we all expected, Urías helped Mexico in the World Baseball Classic. Only this time it was second baseman Luis Urías, who pounced on a hanger for a three-run home run off fireballing phenom Roki Sasaki in the fourth inning.

Dueling three-run shots

The timing of Urías’ home run was brilliant for Mexico, as it followed two softly-hit singles.

Even though he allowed the home run, Sasaki looked incredible, showing off his skills. His fastball averaged 100.6 mph, and he got 10 swinging strikes on his cutter alone.

But Angels left-hander Patrick Sandoval was up to the task of dueling with Sasaki, and even out-pitching him. Sandoval worked around four singles and a walk to pitch scoreless baseball into the fifth inning, with six strikeouts.

Sandoval allowed only one run in 7⅓ innings during the tournament.

First baseman Kazuma Okamoto nearly got the first run for Japan off Sandoval with his fifth-inning drive that appeared ticketed for the left field seats. But that’s when Randy Arozarena intervened.

There is no player in baseball more suited for showmanship than Arozarena, who not only mugged after the tremendous catch, but also signed autographs for fans later in the inning, in between outs. He also made a nifty catch in deep left field to save a few runs to end that same inning.

Then again, when you’ve got it, flaunt it. Arozarena, who you might remember ran roughshod through the 2020 postseason setting records with 10 home runs and 29 hits for the Rays, also doubled and scored the go-ahead run in the eighth inning. He hit a robust .450/.607/.900 with seven extra-base hits for Mexico in the WBC.

Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes was hitless in four at-bats. It was a productive World Baseball Classic for Barnes, who caught five of Mexico’s six games. He hit .278/.409/.389 with two doubles, four walks, a stolen base, and four runs scored in 22 plate appearances.

Up next

Only one more game left in the World Baseball Classic, with USA and Japan facing off for the championship on Tuesday night. The FS1 broadcast starts at 4 p.m. PT, with Joe Davis, John Smoltz, and Ken Rosenthal on the call.