Loss to Korea puts Mexico on the brink
Three homers allowed set up elimination game vs. Cuba
By Jesse Sanchez / MLB.com
Jorge Cantu and Oliver Perez regroup on the mound during Sunday's loss. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
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SAN DIEGO -- Mets left-hander Oliver Perez and many of his Mexico teammates are on the brink of resuming Spring Training.
On Sunday, Korea topped Mexico, 8-2, in front of 22,337 in the nightcap of a World Baseball Classic doubleheader at PETCO Park to send the squad into survival mode.
With the loss, Mexico will play Cuba on Monday at 11 p.m. ET in an elimination game. Japan, the tournament's defending champions, will play Korea at 11 p.m. on Tuesday.
"Today's game was really tough for us because we understand the Koreans were really good," Perez said. "When they hit the ball, I was missing my location and I was behind in the count. That's why they hit the pitches."
For his career, Perez is 1-1 with 4.60 ERA in three games at PETCO Park. Getting the starting nod, he didn't fare as well on Sunday, allowing four runs on six hits in 4 2/3 innings. He struck out three batters but also gave up three home runs in the 85-pitch outing, the pitch-count limit for in the second round.
It was an off night for the Mexican ace, and the Koreans wasted little time attacking him.
In the bottom of the second inning, third baseman Bum Ho Lee hit a one-out home run to left field to cut Mexico's lead in half, 2-1. Right fielder Yong-Kyu Lee followed with a single and came home one out later on a throwing error by second baseman Edgar Gonzalez to tie the game at 2.
Perez retired the side in third inning but was stung again by the long ball in the fourth, when first baseman Tae Kyun Kim hit a home run to left-center field to push Korea ahead, 3-2.
In the top of the fifth, Mexico loaded the bases with one out, but Scott Hairston struck out swinging on a high fastball. The next hitter, Jorge Vazquez, grounded out to shortstop Ki Hyuk Park for the final out of the frame.
In the bottom half of the frame, second baseman Young Min Ko launched a Perez delivery over the wall in left field for a 4-2 lead. Perez walked the next hitter, left fielder Hyun-Soo Kim, and was immediately replaced by veteran right-hander Elmer Dessens.
"We are very happy that we won the game," Korea manager In Sik Kim said. "What I was concerned with was the pitchers playing very well and the batters. In the latter part, I think we won the game very easily."
Mexico scored twice in the second inning on a single to left field by shortstop Augie Ojeda that brought home Hairston and Vazquez for a 2-0 lead.
Mexico would not lead again.
"They can play power, they can play small ball baseball," Perez said. "That's why you have to be careful."
Powerful and resilient. The Korean offense rarely slowed down.
In the bottom of the seventh, Kim's single to left field off reliever Rafael Diaz drove home Ko and Jin Young Lee to extend Korea's lead as part of a four run seventh.
"All of us are a little upset," Perez said. "We don't really like being in this position, but we need to realize that we all did our very best effort, and this is baseball."
Even in defeat, Perez did not make excuses.
"I've been practicing since mid-December, planning and practicing particularly for the Classic," Perez said. "I knew that it was an important event for myself and for the Mexican team. I really feel at my very best ... as [good] as I felt at any other Spring Training."