In a thrilling quarterfinal matchup between Mexico and Puerto Rico, it was Randy Arozarena who delivered the game-changing moment that secured Mexico's place in the World Baseball Classic semifinals. The Cuban-born outfielder, who became a citizen of Mexico last year to represent the nation in the tournament, made an improbable leaping catch near the left-center-field fence in the eighth inning, erasing what would have been a game-tying extra-base hit. The catch helped Mexico hold on to a 5-4 victory in front of a sellout crowd at LoanDepot Park.
Arozarena, who dominated throughout the 2020 postseason with his Tampa Bay Rays, providing three home runs in the World Series, is now making a name for himself in the 2023 World Baseball Classic. He was the MVP of Pool C, driving in nine runs and scoring six others while going 7-for-14. And in Friday night's quarterfinal, Arozarena once again showed why he is one of the most exciting players in the game.
Puerto Rico jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning, but Mexico rallied back, erasing the deficit while down to its last seven outs. Isaac Paredes lined a two-run single to left field and Luis Urias dumped a base hit into shallow right, giving Mexico its first lead of the game. Puerto Rico had a chance to tie the game in the following inning, but Arozarena wouldn't have it. After securing the catch and chucking the baseball back toward the infield, Arozarena settled onto the warning track and stretched his arms out wide, another signature pose from the Cuban-born outfielder who fell in love with Mexico.
Arozarena's heroics set up a semifinal matchup against powerhouse Japan on Monday. “He's a kid who's incredibly focused on doing everything within his power to help this family of Mexican warriors get a chance to play for a world championship,” said Mexican manager Benji Gil.