Caribbean Series 2017: Puerto Rico draws first blood with five run first for 9-6 win over Venezuela

February 7, 2017


By Lewis Rubman

Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico–Fresh from their first day of rest since the start of the 2017 Caribbean Series and flushed with victory after their 10-2 shellacking of the Dominican Republic on Saturday after, Puerto Rico’s Caguas Criollos jumped all over Mitch Lively, who started today’s contest for the Zulia Eagles, Venezuela’s entry in this year’s Series. Dedicated Bay Area fans may remember Lively from his work frin 2008 through 2013 in the Giants’ organization, where he rose steadily from the Arizona Fall League to Fresno. He did not perform well this afternoon.

The Creoles knocked Lively around for five runs in the top of the first. Three of the first four Boricua batters singled, with Rusney Castillo’s single ddriving in Henry Ramos for the islanders’ first tallly and moving Ivan de Jesus, Jr. up to second. A walk to Ruben Gotay loaded the bases and another to Jorge Padilla forced in De Jaesus, leaving the bases still loaded. Castillo then scored from third on Jesmuel Valentin’s sac fly to left. When Yadiel Rivera plated Gotay with a single to right, Lively’s day’s work was over. Eagles manager Lipso Nava replaced him with Wilfred Ledezma. In two thirds of an inning, LIvely had the deathly line of four runs, all earned, on four hits, two walks, and no strike outs.

Caguas starter Orlando Roman, who spent eight years in the Mets’ system and four more with the Yakult Swallows in Japan, among other places, and Ledezma dueled each other, with Roman getting the better of it, until the top of the fourth, when, with no outs, Romulo Sanchez replaced Ledezma on the mound. Henry Ramos was on third base, having just blasted a triple to deep center field. By then, Puerto Rico had increased its lead from 4-0 to 6-0 on a third inning double by Valentin that drove in Padilla and was followed by Yaidel Rivera’s single that drove in Valentin. Sanchez got out of the inning, but not before giving up an infield single by David Vidal that brought Ramos home. The run, and two others, were charged to Ledezma in his two and two third inning stint. By now Puerto Rico was leading 7-0 and seemed to have a pretty good chance of winning and advancing to the final game, in spite of its horrid start in the Series, and Venezuela’s resiliance.

The Creoles kept piling up the runs. With two down in the top of the fifth, Cedeno’s errant throw to first allowed Rivera to reach that base and Padilla whom Sanchez had hit with a pitch earlier in thei inning, to advance to third. If it hadn’t been for the error by Venezuela’s third baseman, the inning would have been over. As it was, Jonathan Morales’s infield hit drove in Eddie Rosario, running for Padilla, with Puerto Rico’s eighth run.

Hopes for a repeat of Sunday’s comeback against the Dominican stirred slightly in the bottom of the fifth when Venezuela cobbled together a run out of a single by Jose Castillo, a double by Jose Pirela, and RBI ground out by Alex Romer. But Vidal homered against Luis Ramirez, who had relieved Sanchez at the beginning of the frame, and it was a 9-1 lead that Will Oliver, with an ERA of 10.80, was given when he took over for Roman in the bottom of the sixth.

The Eagles began to work on the seven run deficit they faced. They began with the first batter to face Oliver, Dennis Phipps. Phipps, who had started the day with a batting average of .083, promptly homered to shave a run off Puerto Rico’s lead. After his contretemps with Phipps, Oliver settled down, and so did his ERA. It got as low as 6.23 but was up to 12.46 by the time his day’s work was over. Zulia’s run total also rose in that period. They scored twice aginst him in the bottom of the eighth on two out singles by Castillo and the Phillies’s Freddy Galvis, followed by Cedeno’s dobule to center. That hit brought Fernando Cabrera (ERA also 10.80) into the game to replace Oliver. He walked Rene Reyes, who moved up a base, along with Cedeno. Both men scored when Jose Castillo singled to center to bring the score to 9-6. Oliver was out, and Ricardo Gomez was in.

Caguas didn’t add to its lead in the ninth,but it looked as though Zulila’s valiant effort would fall short. But not for long. Romero opened the frame with a single to center. Jesse Flores followed with another. Phipps singled to left. All of a sudden, Venezuela had the tying run on base with nobody out. But Ali Castillo took a third strike. Freddy Galvis flied out to center. And Ron Cedeno went down swinging. Roman was the winning pitcher; Lively, the loser. Gomez got the save.

Puerto Rico’s Caguas Criollos had hung on to come back. At 6:00 o’clock, Pacific, they will play the winner of tonight’s game between Cuba and Mexico to determine the championship of the Spanish speaking baseball world.




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