USA baseball edges Mexico in Olympic qualifier
PHOENIX -- If Mexico vs. the United States wasn't a baseball grudge match before, Brad Snyder thinks it is now.
"Definitely. I mean, these guys being as close as they are to us, and they want to beat us any time they ever get a chance," Snyder said Wednesday after the United States defeated Mexico 5-4 on the second day of regional Olympic qualifying. "They want to show what they've got down there and we want to do the same."
Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit a tie-breaking single in the ninth inning, leaving the United States unbeaten in the tournament and Mexico winless.
The U.S. catcher's grounder off Edgar Huerta hopped past first baseman Francisco Mendez, who was pinned close to the bag after Snyder's leadoff double and an infield single by Brendan Harris.
"We had no outs," Saltalamacchia said. "Runners on first and third, I knew they were going to be [drawn] in, so I said, 'You know what? Just get a pitch up in the zone that you're going to be able to hit.' No worries in the world, because you've got no outs. You know that run's going to get in sooner or later."
The game was the first between the national teams since Nov. 7, 2003, when Mexico beat the United States 2-1 in a qualifier, knocking them out of the 2004 Olympics. The Americans were 3-0 in pool play before that game; Mexico was 0-3 and got its qualifying berth because the Bahamas forfeited.
Reliever Stephen Andrade earned the win by getting Leo Arauz to groundout with the bases loaded.
Left-hander Oscar Rivera, who baffled U.S. bats two years ago, pitched five innings. He gave up five hits and four runs -- one earned.
"They were like it was a last-minute decision," U.S. manager Davey Johnson said. "I think he was scheduled to face us all along. He was outstanding. I knew there was probably a fly in the ointment, because that guy can flat-out pitch. The guy that came behind him [Huerta] was outstanding, too, had a nasty slider. They had some good hitters in the lineup, and they were tough."
U.S. starter Jered Weaver struck out his first six batters. But Mexico took a 2-0 lead in the third inning when Weaver gave up the first of his three walks, followed by a triple by Flavio Romero and a run-scoring single by Arauz.
The United States got a run in the fourth on a groundout by Ryan Shealy after Rolando Acosta threw the ball away. The U.S. took a 4-2 lead in the fifth on an RBI single by Shane Victorino and a grounder to short by Howie Kendrick. Acosta's throw pulled Mendez off the bag, allowing Victorino and Lastings Milledge to score.
Mexico tied the game 4-4 on Manuel Velez's two-run single in the sixth inning.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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