Team Mexico, without time for the celebrations, goes against Puerto Rico in the quarterfinals

The party and the typical dishes will have to wait.

Mexico took an unexpected first place finish in their World Baseball Classic pool, but there was no time to celebrate. They immediately packed their bags to travel from Phoenix to Miami, where they will face Puerto Rico in the quarterfinals on Friday.

After losing to Colombia, the Mexicans went on to win three games to clinch top spot in Group C, closing with a 10-3 win over Canada. They reached the second round of the tournament for the third time in their history and the first since 2009, when they lost to South Korea.

“I am happy with what has been achieved so far, but not at all satisfied. We took the first step, but we have three more steps to take,” said manager Benjamín Gil, who after a win against the United States gave his players permission to celebrate and eat menudo and aguachile, two typical dishes of the country.

Mexico was left out in the first phase in the two previous editions of the Classic. Determined to achieve a better figure, Mexican baseball officials gave Rodrigo López, a former Major League pitcher, the task of assembling a talented team with a mission to reverse those results.

The Mexican roster has optimal resources in every facet. The rotation has Julio Urías, Taijan Walker and José Urquidy. Giovanny Gallegos excels in the bullpen. Nationalized Cuban Randy Arozarena, Alex Verdugo, Joey Meneses, Luis Urías and Rowdy Téllez are among the pillars of the lineup.

“I have said it since before the start of the tournament that this is a very talented and very competitive team and it has shown itself. The hitters have fajó. Randy is… my respects, but the team has done a great job along with the manager,” Urquidy said.

In addition to putting together a roster with a lot of MLB talent, López also bet on Gil despite the fact that the pilot failed in the past Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, where the team lost all their games.

“We are focused, whoever we face will be a great rival, we will make the preparations by studying the teams,” Gil said after defeating the Canadians when he was still unaware that the Puerto Ricans would be his opponent. “I hope there will be Wi-Fi on the plane to study them.”

The Mexican qualification to the next phase resonated strongly in the country, where the front pages of the main general information newspapers highlighted the achievement. It was also the main note in all sports newspapers.

On Thursday morning, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, an ardent baseball fan, congratulated the team on the achievement and wished it success in its next game against Puerto Rico.

Unlike the Mexicans, the Puerto Ricans are on familiar ground after qualifying for their third consecutive final phase, and have just reached runners-up in the 2013 and 2017 editions, when they lost to the Dominican Republic and the United States, respectively.

To try to surprise, Mexico will put Julio Urías, the stellar left-hander of the Los Angeles Dodgers, on the hill, and they hope that Arozarena extends his good moment in the tournament.

“It feels very nice, I am grateful because they (the Mexicans) gave me the opportunity and trusted me and thank God I have been able to help them win games,” said Arozarena, who has nine RBIs and has been the spark plug to the offensive. “Of course one thinks about the final, but you have to go game by game.”

Then the party will come.

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