(Reuters) – Venezuela rallied for three runs in the ninth inning to beat Italy 4-3 in a tie-breaker game in Guadalajara, Mexico to advance to Round Two of the World Baseball Classic on Monday.
Italy led 2-1 going into the ninth, but on the second pitch of the final frame, twice American League MVP Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers hit a towering home run to tie it.
Rougned Odor singled off the top of the outfield wall to score Victor Martinez with the go-ahead run and Odor later scored on a suicide squeeze bunt by Alcides Escobar to give Venezuela an insurance run, which proved necessary.
Italy’s Alex Liddi homered to lead off the bottom of the ninth against closer Francisco Rodriguez, but the right-hander held on for the save.
John Andreoli homered to break a 1-1 tie in the bottom of the seventh, briefly giving the Italians hope of making the second round for the second straight Classic.
Andreoli stepped to the plate with two outs in the ninth, but Rodriguez got him to ground out to third.
Both Venezuela and Italy entered the game with 1-2 records. The win sent Venezuela to San Diego for Round Two and a game against Team USA on Wednesday. Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic play the Pool F opener at Petco Park on Tuesday.
Earlier, Didi Gregorius homered and drove in five runs as the Netherlands crushed Israel 12-2 in Tokyo to move closer to a semi-final spot.
The win left the Netherlands with a 1-1 record in second-round play, behind Pool E leaders Japan, who won their opening game.
The loss was the first of the tournament for Israel, who dipped to 1-1 and play Japan in their Pool E finale while the Netherlands take on winless Cuba.
The top two teams in the pool advance.
Jair Jurrjens, who pitched in Major League Baseball for eight seasons, gave the Netherlands six solid innings of work, limiting Israel to one run on five hits.
Dutch bats, meanwhile, pounded Israel pitching for 15 hits with Andrelton Simmons, Wladimir Balentien and Yurendell de Caster each collecting three.
But it was Gregorius who did much of the damage, the New York Yankees shortstop keying a four-run fourth inning with a three-run blast into the Tokyo Dome’s right field seats.
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto and Larry Fine in New York; Editing by John O’Brien)