Julio Urías, Austin Barnes play well in Mexico’s stunning loss to Colombia
People were still streaming into Chase Field on Saturday, the volume growing with every addition to the green, red and white frenzy, and Julio Urías absorbed the vibes as best he could. He wanted to look around and greet everyone screaming his name while he warmed up in a Mexico jersey for the first time in more than a decade.
But he had a job to do. The team (Mexico) was different. The stakes (World Baseball Classic) were unusual. The timing (mid-March) was strange. Yet the goal was the same: Secure as many outs as possible.
For four innings, the left-hander compiled them without a hitch against Colombia. Twelve up, 12 down. Perfection. His fastball touched 95 mph. He accumulated four strikeouts. He needed just 45 pitches while comfortably working with Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes.
The Dodgers’ Freddie Freeman is playing for Canada in the WBC as a way to honor his late mother. “I just realized that was more important,” he said.
“He was untouchable,” Mexico manager Benji Gil said.
And then he wasn’t. Back-to-back doubles and a two-run home run off the left-field foul pole by Reynaldo Rodriguez — a 36-year-old journeyman who has never played in the major leagues — produced three Colombian runs to sour Urías’ first career WBC start. Mexico later tied the score on Randy Arozarena’s two-run home run but took a 10-inning loss, 5-4.
The upset leaves Mexico in a near must-win situation against the United States on Sunday. Mexico fans aren’t happy with the unexpected result. The Dodgers and their fans, however, should be. Urías looked sharp outside of that rough three-batter stretch.
Most importantly, the Dodgers’ de facto ace emerged healthy after unloading 62 pitches at max effort three weeks earlier than usual.
“He was looking really good,” Barnes said. “But that’s baseball. A couple of swings can change the game, but his stuff looked really good.”
Follow along for the latest news and analysis from Dodgers spring training at Camelback Ranch in Phoenix ahead of the 2023 MLB season.
The sudden slide began when Jorge Alfaro, a veteran major league catcher, lined a double to right-center field. Four pitches later, Elias Díaz switched places with him. Rodriguez skied the next pitch, a 93-mph fastball, off the foul pole.
The pitch Rodriguez hit, Barnes noted, was a foot inside, off the plate. It didn’t matter.
“I felt good,” Urías said in Spanish. “Obviously, with baseball, that’s the beauty of it. It doesn’t matter how perfect you are, how good you are, how well your pitches and everything is working.”
Sandwiched between the consecutive doubles was a brief scare behind the plate when Barnes took a pitch in the dirt from Urías in the throat. Barnes was shaken up for several moments. Trainers tended to him. He stayed in the game after taking a few practice tosses from Urías. He left the stadium with a red imprint on his neck.
Batting ninth, Barnes, who is expected to start most if not all of Mexico’s games after Toronto Blue Jays catcher Alejandro Kirk pulled out of the tournament late last month, went two for four. He doubled with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning to put the winning run in scoring position before being replaced by a pinch-runner.
Colombia then intentionally walked Arozarena. The strategy worked. Guillermo Zúñiga, a former Dodgers minor leaguer, struck out Alex Verdugo, a former Dodgers outfielder, on three fastballs to end the inning. The first was 101 mph. The second was 100 mph. The third, a 102-mph dart, got Verdugo swinging.
An error led to Colombia’s go-ahead run in the 10th inning, leaving most of the 28,497 people in attendance stunned. The result was disappointing for Mexico. For the Dodgers, it was a different story.
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