In the playoffs, anything can happen- and you have to be ready for it. The best players falter, the unknowns suddenly come on strong, and as a team you have to be able to survive the momentum swings and do everything you can to win. The Leones de Escogido representing the Dominican Republic had a rough game on Sunday. But they rallied to come away victorious and now stand just one win away from heading to the Caribbean Series championship game.
Leones de Escogido (Dominican Republic) 6, Yaquis de Obregon (Mexico) 5 (11 innings)
Especially in the postseason, even players who had appeared to be perfect come apart. Unfortunately, Fernando Rodney fell victim to that on Sunday, but his teammates rallied to win 6-5 in 11 innings. Miguel Tejada gave Escogido an early lead with a second inning 2-run home run, but Obregon rallied back with 4 runs over the next 3 innings. In the 4th inning with the score 2-1 Leones, Jesse Gutierrez doubled to begin the inning and then was singled in by Barbaro Canizarez who scored himself on Marlon Byrd‘s RBI single. But after a sacrifice bunt, Byrd was thrown out by Escogido centerfielder Abraham Almonte trying to score on Oscar Robles‘ singe and Escogido escaped further trouble, and that would loom large later in the game. But after the top of the 5th, Obregon led 4-2 and looked to be in control of the game. But in the bottom of the 5th, Obregon shortstop Alfredo Amezaga made a 1-out error, finally getting the Leones going as they followed it with three straight hits, the last two of whom were a Jordany Valdespin RBI single and a huge go-ahead 2-run double by Hanley Ramirez, as Escogido took a 5-4 lead. That lead would stay in place until the 9th, when Fernando Rodney came in trying to close out the game. But the inning went like no one could have expected.
The inning began in disastrous fashion for Rodney and the Leones as Chris Roberson singled, stole second, and advanced to third on a wild pitch, all with nobody out. But Alfredo Amezaga hit a groundball right back to Rodney, and he was able to get Roberson out in a rundown to assuage some of the pressure. But then Doug Clark singled, advancing Amezaga to third. Jesse Gutierrez struck out, but Clark stole second base. Nevertheless, Rodney was 1 out away from sealing the Escogido win. But a passed ball by catcher Francisco Pena allowed the tying run to score before Rodney was able to escape trouble, and the game went into extra innings. It was a disastrous inning for Rodney as he allowed 3 hits and a walk, but if not for the passed ball, he would have found a way to escape unscathed. But in the 11th, another big leaguer came apart, albeit not as high profile of one, as Luis Ayala went to the mound for Obregon in the 11th. Two singles began the inning before Valdespin was intentionally walked to face Hanley Ramirez. The strategy somehow worked as Ramirez grounded into a force play at home. But Ricardo Nanita blooped a single to end it as Escogido won 6-5, improving to 3-0 in the Caribbean Series, while Mexico dropped to 1-2. Escogido mounted a nice comeback only to see it all come apart- but they rallied to come away victorious and with just 1 win in their next 3 games, the Caribbean Series championship game awaits.
Navegantes de Magallanes (Venezuela) 3, Criollos de Caguas (Puerto Rico) 1
The Navegantes got dominant pitching, striking out 14 Caguas batters, as they breezed by the Criollos and took over second place in the Caribbean Series. Magallanes starter Ken Ray blew away Criollos batters, going 6 innings allowing just 1 run on 6 hits, striking out 9 while walking not a single batter. Home runs by Jose Yepez and Jose Castillo, a 2-run shot, gave Ray and the Navegantes all the runs the support they needed. Victor Moreno closed out the game for Magallanes even more dominant than Ray had started it, going 1.2 perfect innings striking out 4 of the 5 batters he faced to seal the Navegantes’ 3-1 win and improve them to 2-1 in the Caribbean Series. Caguas drops to 0-3. Magallanes has come back big-time after getting blown out by the first-place Dominican squad in the Caribbean Series opener, and if they can keep going strong, a rematch with the Leones in the championship game could be oncoming.