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)

Brazil 7 – Colombia 1

Brazil advanced to the Panama WBC qualifier final with a decisive 7-1 victory over Colombia on Saturday afternoon. Colombia will face the winner of Saturday night’s Panama-Nicaragua matchup on Sunday for a chance to play Brazil in the final.

PANAMA CITY, Panama — Perhaps it’s safe to say that Brazil doesn’t upset opponents anymore. It simply beats them.

Baseball is on the rise in the South American country and they can thank Barry Larkin for it. The 2012 Hall of Fame inductee and national team manager has helped transform the country’s baseball program over the past three years, as evidenced by the club’s latest eye-opening victory in Panama during the World Baseball Classic qualifier.

Behind a strong start from southpaw Oscar Nakaoshi and some sound situational hitting, Brazil advanced to the final game of the qualifier with a 7-1 win over Colombia on Saturday afternoon at Rod Carew National Stadium.

“I’m very proud of the team, they’re playing with a lot of confidence,” Larkin said. “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)

Game Preview: Panama vs. Nicaragua

Panama and Nicaragua will play in the Panama WBC qualifier’s first elimination match on Saturday night (8 p.m. ET) at Rod Carew National Stadium.

PANAMA CITY, Panama — Someone’s tournament is going to end on Saturday night at Rod Carew National Stadium. Whether it will be Panama or Nicaragua will be decided at 8 p.m. ET, and you can watch live for free on worldbaseballclassic.com.

Each team lost its respective opener in the Panama World Baseball Classic qualifier, as the host country suffered a 3-2 upset defeat to Brazil on Thursday and Nicaragua lost 8-1 against Colombia on Friday. Panama manager Roberto Kelly is hoping to send the hometown fans home happy after the disappointing result in Game 1.

“You want to come out and win the first game,” Kelly said after his team’s defeat, “especially since we’ve only got three games to play, it’s a short tournament. Obviously, you don’t want to start with your back against the wall.”

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– Alex Espinoza (@AlexEspinozaIV)

Game Preview: Brazil vs. Colombia

Brazil and Colombia each won their first games in the Panama WBC qualifier and will square off Saturday afternoon (2 p.m. ET) for a chance to reach the qualifier final.

PANAMA CITY, Panama — Brazil has already crashed the party, but it’s hoping it’s just getting started.

The South American outfit opened the Panama World Baseball Classic qualifier with a 3-2 upset victory over the host country on Thursday night at Rod Carew National Stadium and needs one more win to reach the qualifier final. Standing in Brazil’s way is a Colombia squad that showed its offensive prowess in an 8-1 victory over Nicaragua on Friday night.

The two teams are set to face off at 2 p.m. ET and will be followed by the qualifier’s first elimination game between Panama and Nicaragua at 8 p.m. ET. You can watch both games for free online at worldbaseballclassic.com.

After watching Brazil claim the Game 1 victory on Thursday night, Colombia manager Eduardo Perez knows his team has a tough challenge.

“[Brazil manager] Barry Larkin will have them ready to play,” Perez said. “They are a very disciplined team.”

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– Alex Espinoza (@AlexEspinozaIV)

Colombia 8 – Nicaragua 1

Colombia used a five-run second inning to claim an 8-1 win over Nicaragua in Game 2 of the Panama WBC qualifier. Colombia will play Brazil on Saturday afternoon (2 p.m. ET) with a trip to the qualifier final on the line. Nicaragua, meanwhile will play Panama on Saturday night (8 p.m. ET) in  the qualifier’s first elimination game.

PANAMA CITY, Panama — For the first time in his accomplished baseball career, Edgar Renteria donned the red, yellow and blue threads of his native Colombia on Friday night. Perhaps his countrymen are wondering why he didn’t do it earlier.

The pride of Barranquilla looked every bit the part of a 16-year Major League veteran as he helped lead Colombia to an 8-1 victory over Nicaragua in the second contest of the World Baseball Classic qualifier.

“He’s here to win; he’s here to compete,” Colombia manager Eduardo Perez said. “This is a guy who did not participate the entire season in regular-season baseball, then all the sudden he went out there and got a hit and looked great defensively.”

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– Alex Espinoza (@AlexEspinozaIV)

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