February 8, 2020
By Lewis Rubman
Venezuela (6-2) 3 9 0
Dominican Republic (7-1) 9 12 0
HATO REY PUERTO RICO–In the early hours of this morning, the Toros del Este won the Dominican Republic’s twentieth Caribbean Series title by running rings around Venezuela’s Lara Cardinals in the final game of this year’s winter classic.
It was an exciting game, but no one was surprised by the outcome. Four members of the Toros had just been named to the Series’ all-star team, left fielder and lead off batter, Rubén Sosa, right handed reliever Ramón Ramírez, designated hitter Jordany Valdespín, and their Puerto Rican manager, Lino Rivera. Mexico was the only other team to have as large a representation.
The only member of the Venezuelan team named as an all star was shortstop, Alí Castillo. It was a tribute to Lara’s determination that it took as long as it did for the Dominicans to run away with the game.
And did they ever run! Their box score statistics for base running, two stolen bases, one runner picked off, and three advances on wild pitches, don’t begin to tell the story of this team that seemed to be in perpetual motion.
Box scores don’t tell you about leg hits, singles turned into doubles, frustrated double plays, runners taking off for the next base only to return after the batter follows off the pitch,.and the like. Sabremetrics might, but that’s a different story.
The Toros were leading 3-0 through four innings of play. Then, with two down and nobody on base, Adonis García singled to left, and Gorkys Hernández drove him in with a line drive double to center.
This Dominicans got their lead back and then some, scoring two runs in the bottom of the fifth and another in the sixth. But Venezuela never let the game get out of hand. They added two tallies in the top of the seventh, bringing the score to 6-3.
The Redbirds brought the potential tying run to the plate with one out in their half of the eighth, when Oakland’s Jorge Mateo failed to come up with Carlos Rivero’s grounder to the Cardenales’ shortstop’s right. It wasn’t an easy play, and the scorer correctly ruled it a hit, but a better fielding shortstop might have made it.
The Toros ran away with the game, starting with one out in the bottom of the eighth. Mateo redeemed whatever fault he might have committed in the top of the inning by slamming a hard grounder down the left field line for a Mark Ellis double. Sosa walked.
Venezuela made its sixth pitching change of the game, and Pedro Rodríguez got Junior Lake to ground into a 6-4-3 double play. At least, that’s how first base umpire Kelvin Bultrón saw it. All-star manager Lino Rivera didn’t. He challenged the call vehemently enough to get kicked out of the game, although it wasn’t clear if his ejection came before, during, or after he engaged in a few acts of umpire pushing and dirt kicking (or maybe it was turf kicking (Santurce’s HIram Bithorn Stadium has an artificial playing surface).
Nonetheless, Rivera’s challenge was upheld, and the twin killing was turned into a force out at second. An infield single, a hit batter, and Abraham Almonte’s two bagger to right brought the score to 9-3, which is where it stayed until the final out was recorded.
Hernández’s RBI double was the only extra base hit for Venezuela. Almonte and Mateo doubled for the Dominican.
The DR’s starting pitcher, Paolo Espino, who pitched a total of twenty-four big league innings for two teams in 2017, got the win. Tim Peterson, Anthony Carter, Jumbo Díaz, Wirfin Obispo, and Ramón Ramírez gave him the bullpen support he needed. Espino yielded one run in five innings. Carter allowed the remaining two, while working just a third of an inning.
Venezuela’s starter, Wilfredo Ledesma, who gave up three runs, all earned, in as many innings, was saddled with the loss. He was followed by Francisley Bueno, Jesús Sánchez, Juan Sandoval, José Ascanio, Hassan Pena, Pedro Rodríguez, and Ricardo Gómez.
If enough goes according to plan, the sixty-third Caribbean Series will take place in Mazatlán next February.