PHOENIX - Toronto’s John Mariotti started for Italy in its World Baseball Classic opener against Mexico on Thursday.
Yet, he was an afterthought after Italy scored twice in the ninth and closer Jason Grilli escaped a bases-loaded jam to beat Mexico 6-5 before 4,478 fans at Scottsdale.
Anthony Rizzo’s two-run double in the top of the ninth off Sergio Romo put Italy up for good after Drew Butera hit the lone home run of the game, a two-run blast in the fourth inning, tying the score 4-4.
Mariotti, the former Team Ontario and Ontario Astros right-hander pitched just 1.2 innings allowing four runs — three earned — on four hits and two walks.
Toronto’s Anthony Granto played shortstop for Italy and singled once in three trips.
Right-hander Alex Maestri will pitch for Italy on Friday against Canada’s Shawn Hill at Chase Field.
Grilli will not be available since he threw more the 30 pitches.