Dominicans win their 20th Caribbean Series defeating Venezuela 9-3

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.

Caribbean Series Semi Finals Game 2: Dominicans get past Puerto Rico in a real nail biter 4-3

February 7

By Lewis Rubman

Puerto Rico (2-4) 3 5 9

Dominican Republic (5-1) 4 7 1

HATO REY, PUERTO RICO–Right after Puerto Rico’s gut wrenching 5-4 loss to the Dominican Republic in the last game of this year’s Caribbean Series, some one asked José Valentín, the manager of Puerto Rico’s team, the Santurce Cangrejeros (Crabbers), how he felt about fellow Puerto Rican Lino Rivera managing the Dominican entry. Knowing that the two teams would face each other again, in the following day’s one and done semi-final, Valentín answered, “All I can see is that for one of us, it’ll be his last game.”

That following day was last night, and it was Valentín would managed his last game of the Series.

For a long time, it looked as if it would be the other way round. The Santurce Cangrejeros (Crabbers), representing the Island of Enchantment, got off to any early lead, but in a way that boded ill for the team’s hopes for the championship.

The Puerto Rican squad loaded the bases, with one out in the top of the second and Cuban right hander Yunesky Maya on the mound for the Dominicans. Roberto Peña then reached first on a bunt single-quite a move for a catcher-as Raymond Fuentes crossed the plate and the two other runners moved up a base. Henry Ramos smacked a hard single to right, driving in Ozzie Martínez, Jan Hernández following closely on his heels.

But Junior Lake made a magnificent throw from right field, but home plate umpire Emil Jiménez called the runner safe, to the mostly Puerto Rican crowd’s delight. That was the start of the foreboding, because review umpire Iván Mercado reversed the decision, killing the rally.

The Dominicans chipped a run of Puerto Rico’s lead, but they got that back in the fifth. Puerto Rico quickly added a run in their half of the sixth. The Dominican cut Puerto Rico’s 3-2 lead to 3-2 in their half of that inning and almost eliminated it entirely.

A walk,a single, and a stolen base, followed by Wilken Castillo’s infield single scored a run and put men on first and second with no one out. They moved up a base on an infield out. Gustavo Núñez hit what looked like a sacrifice fly, but Jan Hernández did his best Ramón Laureano imitation, and threw Abraham Almonte out at the plate. It was Junior Lake’s second inning throw to the plate all over again, down to the long wait before the the result of the replay was announced.

It was now the bottom of the eighth, and the bottom fell out of Puerto Rico’s chances. Facing number 13 Nicholas Padilla, Jordany Espín singled to right. Peter O’Brien sent him to third with a double to center. Francisco Cruz came into the game to relieve Padilla and uncorked a wild pitch, which allowed Espín to score and Alen Hanson, pinch running for O’Brien to advance to third. Almonte lofted a sacrifice fly to center, and the Domincan led, 4-3.

Fernando Abad, who had entered the game to get the final out in the top of the eighth, got the side out in the ninth and the win. It was a good game for players with Oakland connections. Jorge Mateo went one for three, raising his average for the Series to .250.

Padilla took the loss.

The Dominican Toros del Este take on the Venezuelan Lara Cardenales for the Series crown tomorrow night at 8:00.

Caribbean Series: Venezuelans get shutout eliminate Mexico 1-0

February 6

By Lewis Rubman

Mexico (4-2) 0 9 0

Venezuela (5-1) 1 2 0

HATO REY, PUERTO RICO–Three Mexican pitchers held Venezuela to hits this afternoon, but that was all the Venezuelans needed to eliminate their rival and advance to the final confrontation of the second second Caribbean Series, which will take place tomorrow evening, starting at 8:00 Atlantic time.

Venezuela’s Lara Cardenales looked set to establish a significant lead in the bottom of the third. Gorkys Hernández, who came to the plate with a raquitic batting average of .200 for the Series, opened the frame with a walk off of Zack Dodson, who was starting for the Tomateros de Culiacán, champions of the Mexican Pacific League. Dodson got the next batter, Juan Apodaca, to ground out to third, moving Hernández up a base in the process.

Wellington Dotel’s rule book double brought in Hernández in with what proved to be the game’s only tally. It didn’t look like that would be the case when the next batter for the Cardinals launched a hard line drive towards left center field. Hernández, playing center, dashed to his right, speared the ball, and fired it in to shortstop Alí Castillo at second to double up Dotel, who was unable to return in time. ´ Mexico had several chances to undo the damage.

They left runners on second and third in the fourth. Alí Solis was thrown out at home with one out in the fifth, trying to score on Rico’s grounder to short. José Guadalupe Chávez led off the ninth with single to left off Pedro Rodríguez. Solís tried to get him into scoring position with a sacrifice.

Rodríguez foiled him with a high, hard heater that caught Mexico´s catch leaning back and unable to drop down a decent bunt. Instead,the ball bounced sharply to first baseman Osmán Marval, who fired it to shortstop Castillo at second. In a marvel of clockwork infielding, Castillo relayed Marval’s throw to second baseman Alex Amarista, covering first. The resultant double play left Juan Carlos Gamboa as Mexico’s last, best hope.

He grounded out to short.

Losing pitcher Dotson went six innings, giving up Venezuela’s single tally and both of its hits. He deserved better. Derrick Loop and Sasagi Sánchez closed Venezuela down for the rest of the game.

The win went to starter Logan Darnell, who gave up six hits over his seven innings of works. He was relieved by José Ascanio (no hits in one inning), Francisely Buenos (no hits in a third of an inning), Richardo Gómez (none in two-thirds of an inning), and Rodríguez (one hit/one inning), who got the save.

Venezuela will play the winner of tonight’s game between Puerto Rico’s Santurce Crabbers and the Dominican’s Eastern Tigers tomorrow night for the championship.

Caribbean Series: Dominicans scratch a run to get by Puerto Rico 5-4 on Thursday

February 6, 2020

By Lewis Rubman

Dominican Republic (4-1) 5 7 0

Puerto Rico (2-3) 4 10 1

Winning pitcher: Jhan Marinez, in relief (1-0, 0.00)

Losing pitcher: Jason García (0-1, 9.00)

Save: Ramón Ramírez(3)

HATO REY, PUERTO RICO–After Mexico’s tidy victory over Colombia, highlighted by Edgar Torres’s seven and two-third innings of one hit ball, played before a sparse audience, last night’s rowdy battle before a near sell out crowd (also rowdy) was a quite a contrast. Not a surprising contrast, but nonetheless a strong one.

The game itself provided internal contrasts. There was some excellent fielding. In the top of the second, Emmanuel Rivera alertly made a strong and accurate throw after his spectacular stop of a shot off the bat of Gustavo Núñez to retire Abraham Almonte at home and keep the game a scoreless tie. There also was some sloppy fielding. In the top of the third, Jack López mishandled a throw, which broke up a double play. Later on in that inning, the Dominicans jumped ahead on Jhordanny Valdespín’s three run homer.

Puerto Rico began a comeback by scoring once in the bottom of the third, on a double by Emmanuel Rivera that drove in López. In the fourth, the hosts played little ball, turning singles, a sacrifice, a walk, and a wild pitch into a 4-3 lead. They would have scored more if home plate umpire David Arrieta’s safe call on Raymond Fuentes hadn’t been reversed on appeal. Valdespín drove in Junior Lake and Rubén Sosa on a double in the fifth, bringing the score to 5-4, and they never relinquished that lead.

The results are in. Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Venezuela are in a three-way day for first place at 4-1, while Puerto Rico has earned the last remaining replace in the play-off schedule, bringing up the rear of the qualifiers at 2-3. Colombia and Panama have been eliminated.

Because there is a three-way tie, the complicated tie-breaking rules have come into play. I’ve translated the relevant portions from the Caribbean Professional Baseball Federation’s web site.

“Among three teams who share the same place in the standings with the same won-lost percentage, the the winner of the group will be the one that obtains the best result in the TQB (Team Quality Balance), which is reached by the number of runs scored, divided by the number of innings played at bat, less the number of runs allowed,, divided by the number of innings played in the field (RS/IPO)-(RA/IPD)=TQB.

To calculate the TQB the outcomes of games between the involved teams will be taken into account. If the equality between two or more teams exists, the group’s winner will be the one that gets the best result from the ER-TQB formula (Earned Runs Team’s Quality Balance), which is obtained from the sum of the number of earned runs scored, divided by the number of innings at bat, less the number of earned runs allowed, divided by the number of innings played in the field (ERS/IPO)-(ERA/IPD)=ER-TQB. If the equality between two or more teams continues, the positions will be decided by batting average; and if none of the previous criteria is effective, the standings and classifications will be decided by lot.”

Based on the above, the Series organizers announced at last night’s game the following schedule for tomorrow, now today:

2:30: Mexico vs. Venezuela, with Venezuela as the home team; 8:00: Puerto Rico vs. the Dominican Republic, with the Dominican as home team.

2020 Caribbean Series: Mexico gets some solid pitching blanks Colombia 4-0

February 5, 2020
By Lewis Rubman
Colombia (0-5)            0      1    0
Mexico (4-1)                  4    10  0
HATO REY PUERTO RICO–In a series notable for its well pitched games, the masterpiece that Mexico’s Edgar Torres  achieved this afternoon stands head and shoulders above the rest. The six foot, 218 pound lefty from Puebla, who toiled ineffectively for the Durango Generals of the Mexican League last summer and had an unimpressive record of 4-6, 3.96 for the Mazatlán Deers of the Mexican Pacific League this past fall, hurled seven and two-thirds of nearly impeccable baseball against the Montería Buckaroos of the Edgar Rentería Colombian Baseball League, Colombia’s representative.That the Colombian contingent isn’t a powerhouse helps put Torres’s achievement in perspective, but it remains an achievement.
In his labor of nearly eight innings, Torres threw 97 pitches, 69 of which were strikes, to 24 batters. The only hit he allowed was a first inning single to Brallán Pérez, and Torres picked him off first almost immediately after that. The only other base runner he allowed was José Brizuela, on a fifth inning walk. Torres’s ground out to fly out ration was 10:3.
Mario Meza mopped up with a perfect inning and a third of relief.
The Mexicans didn’t score until the fifth, when Juan Gamboa singled and advanced to third on José Guadalupe Chávez’s single to right, scoring moments later on a wild pitch by Colombia’s starting pitcher, Edinson Frías. Rico Noel´s single brought Chávez home.
That was all that Mexico needed, but Roberto Peña’s two run homer in the seventh gave them some more breathing room.
Mexico is assured of a play off berth, but we’ll have to wait for the results of tonight’s game between Puerto Rico and the Dominican to see what mathematical calculations, if any, are necessary who plays whom and which team gets last licks.

2020 Caribbean Series: Venezuela bests Panama with shutout 2-0

February 5, 2020
By Lewis Rubman
Venezuela        2    5    4
Panama            0    9    1
HATO REY, PUERTO RICO–Going into the final day of its classifying round, here are the standings of the sixty-second Caribbean Series:
  Team                                            W-L    Pct.    GB
  Mexico (Tomateros de Culiacán)            3-1    .750     –
  Dominican Rep. (Toros del Este)            3-1    .750        –
  Venezuela (Cardenales de Lara)            3-1    .750        –
  Puerto Rico (Cangrejeros de Santurce)     2-2      .500        1
  Panama (Astronautas de Chiquirí            1-3      .250    2
  Colombia (Vaqueros de Montería)        0-4      .000        3
By winning this morning’s game against Panama, assured itself of at least a tie with either Mexico or the Dominican Republic for the best won and lost record. Who will earn the number one seed will depend on how the Venezuelans fared against the team or teams, if any,  who equal their winning percentage.
How that is determined is fairly complicated, and I promise to explain it if  Mexico defeats Colombia this afternoon, which is a probable outcome of their meeting. The same goes in the case of the quite possible, but not nearly as likely, case of the Dominicans beating Puerto Rico in tonight’s sold out contest between the representatives of those neighboring islands.
The Cardenales grabbed an early lead this morning and never relinquished it.
Alí Castillo lined Manaurys Correa’s first pitch into right field for a triple. Gorky Hernández also swung on Correa’s first offering and dropped a run producing single into short center field, and that was all the Redbirds needed. Just to be sure, they tacked on an insurance run in the ninth on Alí Castillo’s single to right that brought Angel Reyes in from second.
As the score indicates, pitching was the story. Right hander David Martínez went six innings, scattering eight hits along the way, to earn the win. Jesús Enrique Sánchez pitched the seventh and eighth without allowing a hit or a walk, and Pedro Rodríguez allowed a hit before closing out the game and receiving credit for the save.
Panama’s pitching also was excellent. Correa was the hard luck loser, in spite of four-hit, one-run hurling.  Of the four Astronauta relievers, Abdiel Velásquez, Anfernee Jesús Benítez, Jean Carlos Corpas, Tyler Wilson, and Carlos de Jesús Díaz, only Wilson was less than totally effective, having allowed one run, one hit, and three walks in his two thirds of an inning of work.

2020 Caribbean Series: Puerto Rico takes advantage of home field with win over Colombia 3-2

February 5, 2020
By Lewis Rubman
Colombia (0-4)            2    5    3
Puerto Rico (2-2)            3    10    0
HATO REY, PUERTO RICO–Last night’s contest between Colombia’s champions, the Montería Vaqueros (which is the Spanish word from which our “buckeroos” is derived) and the host Santurce Cangrejeros, or Crabbers, had loads of the ingredients that make baseball fun: speedy base running, outfield assists, close plays, a close score, an enthusiastic crowd, and, of course, a local angle for the fan. Just the thing to cap off the fourth straight day filled with three games and four straight nights filled with little sleep.
Wasted opportunities are frustrating. In baseball, they’re also fun. Every chance to achieve something – a shut down inning, a run, a double play, a stolen base- carries with it the excitement of being on the verge of a desired attainment. And last night’s game had its share. I can’t begin to list all of them, but I can point out a few examples.
Take Puerto Rico’s half of third inning. The Crabbers held a one run advantage over the Buckaroos. Jack López led off with a single and advanced to second when Colombia’s center fielder, Andy Vásquez, lost control of the ball. A sequence like that is an invitation to score. But pitcher Julio Vivas promptly withdrew the invitation by picking López off second. Notice that two mistakes were involved in this scenario, bad fielding and bad base running. Interesting or exciting baseball is not necessarily good baseball
In the top of the seventh, with the score knotted at two all, Vásquez laced a single to center. Arvicent Pérez followed this up with a single to right. Vásquez never stopped on his way to third, where he was cut down by a laser throw from right fielder Jan Hernández that would have put Ramón Liriano to shame. Of course, Colombia challenged the call, but it was upheld.
A lousy throw can afford as much excitement as a great one. Earlier in the game, after Colombia had tied the score at one all on a fifth inning solo homer by Vásquez,  the men from Montería jumped to a brief, one run lead in the sixth. Andrés Angulo led off with a walk and stole second. Jordan Díaz singled him home and went to second on the throw. Francisco Acuña sacrificed Díaz to second, but he kept on running. Seeing this, catcher Roberto Peña threw the ball towards third. Towards, not to. Left fielder David Vidal retrieved the errant missile and fired it to Peña, who put the tag on the overly ambitious Díaz. At this point, Devin Raftery relieved starter Héctor Hernández and struck out Rey Fuentes to get the final out of the inning.
There was drama when Puerto Rico went ahead in the eighth, using bunts and bunt attempts (including a couple by the fifth spot hitter) before Andury Acevedo plunked Jonathan Morales on a 3-0 count with the bases loaded to force in the winning run.
As for the local angle. That was provided by the Vaqueros’ first baseman, Alberto Callaspo.

Caribbean Series: Mexico rolls to one run win over Venezuela 7-6

February 4

By Lewis Rubman

Mexico (3-1) 7 13 0

Venezuela (3-1) 6 10 2

HATO REY, PUERTO RICO–I never tire of quoting (although people who know must get tired of hearing) the saying the Cubans have about our shared national pastime, “La bola es redonda y viene en caja cuadrada,” “the ball is round and comes in a square box.” The Cubans didn’t make it to this year’s Caribbean Series, but their refrain sure did. Just look at the games Venezuela played last night and this afternoon.

Last night, the Lara Cardinals squeaked past Puerto Rico in a game that had been tied at one through nine innings and won in the tenth, aided by the offensive-friendly extra inning runner placement rule and a questionable call involving an arcane rule.

This afternoon, they were being blown out by Mexico’s Tomateros (Tomato Growers) of Culiacán until the Venezuelans provided some blow back of their own. After last night´s game, Venezuela’s manager, Luis Ugueto, told the press corps that his team’s poor offensive performance was due to the strong winds that keep the ball in the park. An intregral part of Venezuela’s comeback today was a wind blown three run homer by Carlos Rivero in the sixth inning.

Mexico, playing as the visitors, started the scoring early. It was their lead off hitter, Rico Noel, who scored the first run first run, driven in by Joey Meneses’s single. Their hits came off Mayckol Gauipe, the Cardinal starter, who lasted a mere three and a third innings and managed to give up six runs, all earned, on nine hits in that time. Rico and Meneses teamed up in the third to double Mexico’s lead. This time it was Meneses’s ground out that brought his teammate home.

The fourth, however, was when Mexico celebrated its version of the Book of Genesis. They scored a quartet of runs in the big inning. With one down, Alí Solís singled to right and reached third moments later when Juan Carlos Gamboa also singled, taking second on the throw.

Rico’s two bagger, another hit to right, doubled Mexico’s lead to four. Noel then lit out for third, which he stole, and kept on running when catcher Alixón Suárez threw the ball into left field, Mexico now was up 5-0 and showed no signs of stopping its advance.

Andrés Pérez relieved Guaipe after the latter walked Ramiro Peña, but that was the last run Mexico was to score this afternoon. It was the only one Pérez surrendered in his three and two-thirds innings on the mound, and Francisley Bueno shut the Tomateros out in the game’s two remaining frame

Singles by Alexis Amarista and René Reyes set the scene for Carlos Rivera. His hit, something between a fly and liner, kept carrying and carrying until it flew over the left field fence, putting Venezuela back in the game, 7-3. Although shaken, Mexico still was in charge.

Culiacán’s left handed starter and the eventual winner, Antony Vázquez, left after six innings. His successors, Gerardo Sánchez and Santiago Gutiérrez, each working an inning, held the Redbirds hitless and scoreless. But disaster struck for the Mexicans in the bottom of the ninth.

Mario Meza, who had been untouchable in his previous, two-out, relief appearance, came in to close out the game for Mexico. He disposed of Carlos Rivero, he of the three run homer in sixth. Adonis García and Angel Reyes laced a pair of singles, and things began to look dicey.

Still, Meza got pinch hitter Oscar Angulo to line out to left. After all, cardiac closers still are closer. But not this time. Ali Castillo pinch hit for Suárez and scored García with a single that moved Reyes up to second.

That was it for Meza. Six foot four inch, 250 pound Alberto Baldonado from Panama assumed pitching duties for the team from northern Mexico. He fulfilled them with more excitement than finesse. After yielding a two run double to César Valera that brought Venezuela within a tally of tying the game, Meza struck out Amarista, clinching a playoff berth for Mexico and clearing the way for the game between Colombia and Puerto Rico that should start in about fifteen minutes.

Caribbean Series: Venezuela gets key run in 10th inning to defeat Puerto Rico

February 4

By Lewis Rubman

Puerto Rico (1-2) 2 8 3
Venezuela (3-0) 3 3 0 ten innings

HATO REY, PUERTO RICO–The game that began last night at 8:06 Atlantic Time may well go down in history as one of the best ever played in the Caribbean Series. It also might be among the most controversial. The two, of course, are not mutually exclusive.

Going into the ninth inning, Adalberto Flores, Bradin Hagens, and NIcholas Padilla had limited Venezuela to one hit. But Venezuela had parlayed that fourth inning double by Alí Castillo into a run, and the resulting 1-0 lead had held up until the eighth, when Angelo Palumbo, their starting pitcher, walked Jan Hérnandez, who was sacrificed over to second by Roberto Peña, scored on Henry Ramos’s automatic double.

It wasn’t as though the team representing the island nation lacked scoring opportunities. They hit into inning ending double plays in the second, third, and fifth frames. In one of them the bases had been loaded, and in another there had been runners on first and second. Most double plays come on well hit balls, but the one that had stymied Puerto Rico’s effort in the fifth was particularly ironic; it came on a hard line drive to second that didn’t give the runner a chance to return to the bag.

Both teams remained scoreless until the tenth, which was under the new rule that mandates that extra innings begin with a runner on second. Puerto Rico’s runner was Rey Fuentes, Carlos Beltrán’s cousin and also a journeyman who has seen big league action with San Diego, Kansas City, and Arizona.

He stayed put on second when David Vidal flew out to right, but he stole third while Jack López was at bat and scored on López’s single to center. Henry Ramos bunted for a hit, and everything seemed seemed in place to seal a victory for the islanders. But Iván de Jesús ground into a 6-4 force out of López, and now it was Venezuela’s to use the extra inning-extra runner rule.

Their runner was René Reyes. He stopped at third after Adonis García lined a single to right. Gorkys Hernández received an intentional walk to load the bases and set up a force out at home.

Juan Apodaca hit a sharp grounder to Emmanuel Rivera at third, who threw home for the force on Reyes. Santurce’s strategy was working! But then catcher Jonathan Morales overthrew first, allowing García and Hernández to score. Venezuela had snatched its irons from the fire. Puerto Rico’s manager, José Valentín left the dugout to ask for a review, but the umpiring crew walked off the field. Replays showed that Apodaca had run out of the base line to first.

The loss was disappointing for Puerto Rico, not just because of the emotional cost of this roller coaster ride of a game or the team’s won-lost record falling to 1-2 but because their first baseman José Sermo was injured while striking out in his last, ninth inning, at bat and isńt expected to recover before the end of the series. After the game, Valentín commented, “We’ll just have to accept defeat like the men we are.”

Venezuela leads the Series pack at 3-0. The Dominican Republic and Mexico are tied for second at 2-1, followed by Puerto Rico and Panama, whose 1-2 mark ties them for fourth. Colombia trails the pack at 0-3.


Caribbean Series: Dominicans get the pitching Espino holds down Colombia

February 3

By Lewis Rubman

Dominican Republic (2-1) 4 5 0

Colombia (0-3) 0 5 0

HATO REY, PUERTO RICO–This afternoon’s hard fought contest between the Toros del Este, champions of the Dominican League, and the Montería Vaqueros (Buckaroos) their counterparts from Colombia, was a lot closer and exciting than the final score would indicate. The totals for hits and errors gives a better idea of the tightness of the encounter than the runs total does.

Two right handers, the Dominican’s Pablo Espino and Colombia’s Randy Consuegra, held their opponent scoreless for almost six innings. Espino completed that stretch; Consuegra was replaced by a situational lefty with after five and a half frames, which may have been the start of his team’s undoing.

The slow building tensions of a pitchers’ duel exploded in the top of the seventh. Ronald Ramírez, the southpaw who closed closed down the Dominican threat in the sixth, didn’t take the mound to start the seventh. Of course, “threat” is a relative concept.

In this case, it consisted of a man on first with two outs. His right handed successor, Pedro Escobar, immediately faced a real threat and was unable to deal with it. He walked the first batter he faced, Junior Lake. Another baseball lifer, 29 year old Peter O’Brien who achieved a lifetime batting average of .209 in four years of cups of espresso, then whacked a might home run over the right field wall, and the two evenly matched teams were two runs apart. Not an insurmountable different but not an insignificant one, either.

The Toros’ impetus carried over from their pitching and hitting to their fielding. The first play of the Buckaroos’ half of the seventh was memorable. Andy Vásquez, hoping to ignite his teammates’ bats, executed a beautiful drag bunt, equidistant from the mound, the first baseman, and the second baseman. Gustavo Núñez, playing second, charged the ball, picked it up with his gloved, and shot it straight from the glove, untouched by human hands, in a sharp, straight line to O’Brien at first. O’Brien made an acrobatic grab of the ball and still managed to maintain contact with the bag long enough to get the out.

In any case, in the top of the eighth, with Carlos Díaz on the mound for the Vaqueros, Oakland prospect Jorge Mateo lined a single to center field. He advanced to third on Rubén Sosa’s line drive single, also to center. Díaz was yanked, and Anthony Vizcaya took over. He uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Mateo to score and Sosa to reach third base, known in Spanish as the waiting room before scoring on Lake’s ground out to short.

The excitement didn’t end there. Colombia fought back valiantly in the bottom of the eighth. Díaz allowed a single to Jordan Díaz and a base on balls to Brallan Pérez open the episode. Men on first and second, no outs – the perfect time for a sacrifice.

Francisco Acuña bunted, but not as well Vásquez had in the previous frame. Acuña’s attempt resulted in a pop up to Jumbo Díaz, now pitching in relief for the Toros. He threw to O’Brien at first for the out on Pérez, who had taken off for second. O’Brien then hurled a cross-diamond bullet to third baseman Diego Goris that nabbed Jordan Díaz to complete the triple play.

Espino got the win. There was no save, but Bay Area fans might find it interesting that Fernando Abad pitched a perfect top of the ninth to end the game. Pedro Escobar was charged with the loss.

Puerto Rico will take on Venezuela in about an hour and a half.