Day 2 preview: Heavyweights Colombia, Panama set to duel

PANAMA CITY, Panama — The two countries share a border, and on Friday night they’ll share the field at Rod Carew Stadium.

In what figures to be an entertaining matchup on the second day of the Panama City World Baseball Classic qualifier, Panama and Colombia will face off at 9 p.m. ET. But before the two heavyweights do battle, France and Spain will play each other at 2 p.m. ET in the first elimination match in Panama City.

All World Baseball Classic qualifier games are streaming on MLB.com and worldbaseballclassic.com.

Panama powered its way to a 9-2 victory over France on Thursday night behind a two-homer effort from Philadelphia Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz. Likewise, Colombia advanced to the winner’s side of the bracket by virtue of a 9-2 win over Spain.

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— Alex Espinoza (@AlexEspinozaIV)

Opening Round: Carlos Ruiz powers Panama to 9-2 win over France

PANAMA CITY, Panama — The home crowd was treated to The Chooch Show at Rod Carew Stadium on Thursday night.

Playing in front of 11,744 spirited fans, Panama catcher Carlos “Chooch” Ruiz hit two home runs and collected four RBIs to lead his squad to a 9-2 win over France in the first round of the World Baseball Classic qualifier. After opening the game’s scoring with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the first, Ruiz hit a solo moonshot in the third and then a two-run blast in the fifth.

Panama is now set to host Colombia — which defeated Spain, 9-2 — at 9 p.m. ET on Friday. Spain will face France at 2 p.m. ET in an elimination game earlier in the day. In qualifier games played in Mexicali, Mexico, the hosts defeated the Czech Republic, 2-1, and Nicaragua walked off over Germany. The Czechs and Germans will meet in an elimination game at 3:30 p.m. ET Friday, and Mexico takes on Spain at 10:30 p.m. All qualifier action can be watched on MLB.com and http://www.worldbaseballclassic.com, or followed via MLB Gameday.

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— Alex Espinoza (@AlexEspinozaIV)

Opening Round: Colombia uses pitching, patience to top Spain 9-2

PANAMA CITY, Panama — It was easy to spot Colombian second baseman Dilson Herrera before Thursday afternoon’s World Baseball Classic qualifier against Spain. As he ran around the field for a pregame workout, Herrera sported a Colombian flag underneath his cap that waved in the wind as he scampered around.

A few hours later, he carried the red, blue and yellow flag of his country proudly into the news conference after he helped his team earn a 9-2 victory.

Manager Luis Urueta’s squad is viewed as the favorite to emerge from the four-team group in Panama City and reach the 2017 World Baseball Classic. On Thursday, Colombia showed why, getting a solid start from William Cuevas before putting away Spain with a couple of outbursts from an experienced lineup.

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— Alex Espinoza (@AlexEspinozaIV)

2016 Panama City WBC Qualifier Preview

The last time Panamanian slugger Carlos Lee took the field with his teammates in World Baseball Classic qualifier action, it ended in disappointment. Instead of celebrating a berth to the 2013 WBC tournament, Lee had to watch as underdog Brazil punched its ticket to the 16-team field, waving its flag over his home field in Panama City.

Fast forward nearly 3 1/2 years, and WBC qualifier action is coming back to Rod Carew Stadium. Lee will be back in the dugout wearing the red and blue threads of his native country again this weekend, only as a manager instead of a player.

Colombia and Spain will open the four-team Panama City WBC qualifier on Thursday afternoon, before Panama hosts France later that night. By the time Sunday evening rolls around, a new entrant into the 2017 WBC tournament will be crowned by virtue of a modified double-elimination bracket.

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— Alex Espinoza (@AlexEspinozaIV)

Brazil beats Panama 1-0 to reach 2013 WBC

PANAMA CITY, Panama — Watch out world, Brazil isn’t just a soccer country anymore.

Against all odds, and almost all fans at Rod Carew National Stadium, Brazil used a trio of stellar pitching performances to claim a thrilling 1-0 victory against Panama on Monday night to earn an improbable bid to the 2013 World Baseball Classic.

Once Thyago Vieira struck out Ruben Rivera in the top of the ninth inning, the Brazilian team spilled out of the dugout, some hoisting their country’s flags high over their head as the mob formed behind the pitcher’s mound. The celebration continued in the locker room, as champagne and beer flowed in victory.

“It doesn’t matter who you’re playing against, it doesn’t matter where you play, it doesn’t matter when you play,” Brazil manager Barry Larkin said. “If you have a plan, a mentality, if you execute, if you do the small things — you can win. You can play with anyone in the world.”

The shoe fits.

In a span of five days, Brazil went from unknown underdog to being the most dominant team of the Panama qualifier. Talk about a Cinderella story.

Before the tournament started, few would have been able to name any Brazilian baseball players other than Indians catcher Yan Gomes, who became the first native of his country to crack an MLB roster in May. Now the baseball world has less than four months to learn about Brazil’s baseball squad, one which showed great attention to detail throughout the tournament and even better pitching.

“We have a tremendous team,” said Gomes, who entered his postgame press conference still soaked from the locker room celebration. “I’ve never seen more guys want to come out there and play harder than anybody. We didn’t come out scared, and that just shows the Brazilian pride and how we were raised. I know we’re a very popular soccer country, but with the talent that we have in that sport, why not bring it out to baseball?”

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– Alex Espinoza (@AlexEspinozaIV)

Game Preview: Panama vs. Brazil

Host country Panama and Cinderella story Brazil will play for all the marbles on Monday night in the qualifier final with a trip to the 2013 World Baseball Classic on the line. Brazil beat Panama 3-2 on Thursday in the tournament opener and also has the advantage of 11 eligible pitchers, compared to Panama who has just eight due to WBC pitcher restrictions.

PANAMA CITY, Panama — No one needs to tell Panama how good Brazil can be. The Panamanian team experienced it first-hand on Thursday night, when Brazil shocked the baseball world with a 3-2 win against the host country in the opener of the Panama World Baseball Classic qualifier.

But the stakes are higher this time around, as the two teams will meet for an 8 p.m. ET matchup on Monday night for the right to play in the 2013 Classic. Fans can watch a free, live stream of the game at worldbaseballclassic.com.

Brazil has come a long way in 2012. In May, Yan Gomes, the national team’s catcher and No. 3 hitter, became the first Brazilian-born player to make his MLB debut. Now, the country has beaten Panama on that team’s home turf and defeated Colombia, 7-1, on Saturday to reach the qualifier final.

“I’m very proud of the team. They’re playing with a lot of confidence,” Brazil manager Barry Larkin said after Saturday’s victory. “The plan is to win. We’re in position to win, but we haven’t won anything yet. We need to be focused at all times, and we know that we have one more game, and we know that we have to win if we want to win it all.”

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— Alex Espinoza (@AlexEspinozaIV)

Panama 9 – Colombia 7

Panama advanced to the qualifier final with an entertaining 9-7 win over Colombia on Sunday night at Rod Carew National Stadium. Up next is a rematch with Brazil, who handed Panama a 3-2 loss to open the tournament on Monday. The winner of Panama-Brazil will secure a bid to the 2013 World Baseball Classic.

PANAMA CITY, Panama — There were heated arguments, banging drums, blowing horns, ground swelling chants and ejections — Sunday night was certainly an entertaining one at Rod Carew National Stadium. As the drama unfolded between Panama and Colombia in the second elimination game of the Panama World Baseball Classic qualifier, the back-and-forth offensive outbursts were just part of the story.

When all the dust settled, Panama stood as the victor, bouncing Colombia out of the tournament with a 9-7 victory. From pleasure to stress, Panama manager Roberto Kelly felt a wide range of emotions throughout the course of the game.

“It was all of the above,” Kelly said. “It was stressful because we would score and they would come right back. They weren’t giving in, they were going to go to the last out. It was fun, obviously, because we won the game, but during the game there was no fun about it.”

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— Alex Espinoza (@AlexEspinozaIV)

Explanation of WBC pitch count restrictions

Understandably, MLB clubs want to make sure their players aren’t used too much in international competitions. As such, there are some pitch-count restrictions a la Little League baseball that apply to all of the involved teams during the WBC qualifying rounds.

Here’s the gist of those restrictions:

  • No pitcher can throw more than 85 pitches, unless he needs to finish an at-bat.
  • If a pitcher throws 50 or more pitches, he is required to take four days rest, essentially making him unavailable for the duration of the qualifier.
  • If a pitcher throws 30-49 pitches, he must take at least one day’s rest.
  • If a pitcher throws 29 pitches or less, he has no restrictions.
  • If a pitcher throws two days in a row, he must take at least one day’s rest.
  • MLB position players are not permitted to pitch in qualifying rounds.

Colombia manager and Houston Astros bench coach Eduardo Perez said managing teams in the qualifier is an entirely different beast than the restriction-free nature of MLB play.

“This WBC tournament is different than playing professional,” Perez said. “With the pitch counts and everything, you have to be conscious of that. I want to make sure if something happens tomorrow, if something turns for the worst, I can have pitchers for the next day, the day after tomorrow. But you still have to win this game for that to happen. It’s a lot of things, a lot of risk. It’s leaving righties against lefties, leaving lefties against righties, et cetera.”

Click here to read the entire lawyer-like explanation of the pitching restrictions

– Alex Espinoza (@AlexEspinozaIV)

Game Preview: Panama vs. Colombia

Panama and Colombia will square off in the qualifier’s second elimination match on Sunday night (7 p.m. ET) at Rod Carew Stadium. Panama knocked Nicaragua out of the tournament with a 6-2 win on Saturday night, while Colombia lost 7-1 to Brazil earlier in the day. Winner will advance to the qualifier final vs. Brazil on Monday, while the loser will be eliminated.

PANAMA CITY, Panama — And then there were three.

The Panama World Baseball Classic qualifier has reached the knockout stage, and up next in Sunday night’s elimination match is the host country Panama taking on Colombia in a game that will be available on a free, live stream at 7 p.m. ET at worldbaseballclassic.com.

Panama has already survived one do-or-die test, as it knocked out Nicaragua on Saturday with a 6-2 victory at Rod Carew National Stadium.

While Roberto Kelly was happy his team was able to give the hometown crowd something to cheer about, the Panama manager knows nothing’s been accomplished just yet.

“We still got a lot of work to do ahead of us,” Kelly said following Saturday’s win. “I just hope the guys come out tomorrow with the same enthusiasm and we can go out there and get the runs, get the key hits, and [that] the pitching can hold the way it’s been doing thus far.

“I think our pitching has been our strength. So hopefully those guys go out there and give us some innings and give us some time for our offense to come through for us.”

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— Alex Espinoza (@AlexEspinozaIV)

Panama 6 – Nicaragua 2

Panama survived the qualifier’s first elimination match on Saturday by slugging its way to a 6-2 victory over Nicaragua. With the victory, Panama will face Colombia on Sunday for the right to play Brazil in the qualifier final Monday.

PANAMA CITY, Panama — It came two days later than they would have liked, but Panamanian fans had a victory to celebrate on Saturday night at Rod Carew Stadium. Better yet they’ll have a chance to watch their national team play at least one more time in the Panama World Baseball Classic qualifier.

Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada led the offensive attack with three doubles, as Panama claimed a 6-2 victory to knock Nicaragua out of the tournament. Panama will play in the qualifier’s second elimination match on Sunday against Colombia, and you can watch live for free on worldbaseballclassic.com.

“It’s a big win,” Panama manager Roberto Kelly said. “Obviously, its the first win in the Baseball Classic and I think the fans were waiting for it, they deserve it. I’m happy for the team, I’m happy for the country.”

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— Alex Espinoza (@AlexEspinozaIV)

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