(Israel’s Jason Marquis pitches to Great Britain’s Champ Stuart, who is a Mets prospect – Photo by Jason Schott)
Israel beat Great Britain 9-1 in the World Baseball Classic Qualifier Championship Game on Sunday night at MCU Park in Coney Island.
This is first time Israel will be part of the 16-team field in the World Baseball Classic. In March 2017, they will compete in Seoul, South Korea, in Group B, along with South Korea, the Netherlands, and Taiwan.
Israel got amazing pitching, led by Jason Marquis, and they got home runs from Blake Gailen, Ryan Lavarnway, and Cody Decker.
Marquis, the Staten Island native who pitched in the Major Leagues for 15 years with teams like the Braves, Cardinals, and Cubs; got the start for Israel and threw four perfect innings.
Marquis said of his outing, “I try to approach every opportunity I get with as much passion as I can. It was definitely our goal to win this little qualifier and get to the main event if that’s what you want to call it.”
Marquis threw 41 pitches in his first start on Thursday night, also against Great Britain and 43 more on Sunday night.
Marquis said of leaving after four innings on Sunday, “I didn’t want to overextend myself and put my team in a hole. I told them I’d give them everything I can for as long as I can. Could I have squeaked out a few more pitches? From my competitive side, sure. But we had some fresh arms in the bullpen very capable of getting the job done. That was a big part of our success. We have a lot of depth in pitching. And they did a great job tonight.”
Marquis last pitched in the Major Leagues in 2015 with the Cincinnati Reds and he said of getting this opportunity with Israel, “Going into the 2015 season, I was coming off Tommy john surgery, I was looking for an opportunity to be with a new ballclub. Cincinnati gave me that opportunity. About 10 starts in, they decided to go go in a new direction. Obviously, they released me, and I had a few other opportunities, but after having played at that level for so long. I didn’t really want to take opportunities in Triple-A or in the minor leagues. I wanted to end my career as a big-leaguer. Whether it’s ego, pride, something that I worked for my whole life to do, so there was really no opportunity that presented itself that I really wanted to take. So, going into this season, I thought about it, I treated it a little bit in the offseason to prepare, maybe give it another go, decided not to, decided to hang out with my family, but the competitive juices were still flowing as I watched the game. I felt like physically I could still do it, so I never really handed in my retirement papers, and this opportunity arose. I pitched just a little mini-tournament in Kansas, a bunch of old guys got together to raise awareness for the tournament down there, felt good to be out there. I’ve got a lot of thinking to do and see what happens.”
In the bottom of the fifth inning, Scott Burcham led off with a single, and Blake Gailen, the number-nine hitter in the Israel lineup, hit a two-run homer. Zach Borenstein walked and Ryan Lavarnway launched another two-run homer to make it 4-0 Israel.
Borenstein had an RBI triple in the sixth, and Cody Decker launched a homer in the seventh to make it 6-0 Israel.
Josh Zeid relieved Marquis and he threw three perfect innings to earn the win.
Jeremy Bleich retired the first two hitters he faced in the eighth, pulling Israel to within four outs of a combined no-hitter.
Albert Cartwright got the first hit for Great Britain with two outs in the eighth inning on a liner to right field. Chavez Young singled him home for their first run of the game, and cut Israel’s lead to 6-1.
After Kyle Simmons walked, Israel turned to lefty Craig Breslow, who pitched for the Boston Red Sox this season, to get out of the jam.
Breslow got Antoan Richardson to ground out to end the threat.
Israel put it away in the bottom of the eighth, as Lavarnway had an RBI single, and Charlie Cutler drove home two more to make it 9-1.
Decker said of the win, “This has been one of the best baseball experiences I’ve had in professional baseball, so this means a lot to me.”
Israel’s team was composed largely of Jewish American minor leaguers and former major leaguers, including former Met and Yankee Ike Davis, former Met Josh Satin, Marquis, and Lavarnway.
Since the World Baseball Classic takes place during spring training, Israel could add some Major League stars like the Brewers’ Ryan Braun and the Tigers’ Ian Kinsler.
Israel Manager Jerry Weinstein said of amending his roster, “We have to be loyal to the group that got us there. I think that for me, regardless of physical ability, that we have an obligation to a lot of the guys on this team that have made the commitment to be with us for this. There are some that were not able to due to their organizational responsibilities because they were denied permission to participate. We’ll look at that down the line, but as a Manager, I’m connected to the guys that played in this thing, and for me, I’d be very happy to take this team anywhere and play, to be quite honest.”