11/17/12 3:01 AM ET
Panama, Nicaragua to face off in do-or-die matchup
By Alex Espinoza / Special to MLB.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."
But that's exactly where Panama finds itself heading into Saturday's first elimination match of the qualifier. While the winner will advance to Sunday's contest to face the loser of the Brazil-Colombia matchup, which takes place at 2 p.m. ET on Saturday, the loser's chances of reaching the 16-team Classic field in March will be officially squashed.
Despite its lineup, which features sluggers like Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz, Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada, Carlos Lee and Ruben Rivera, Panama was mostly held in check by Brazil's stellar pitching. Nicaragua, on the other hand, fell in an early 5-0 hole after two innings and couldn't recover.
"You don't want to lose a game," Nicaragua manager Dennis Martinez said following Friday's loss. "You want to try to win the first one, because that's the most important one. Unfortunately, the same thing happened to Panama, so now we're in the same boat. Now we'll have to come back tomorrow and get excited."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.