Winter Leagues Update: Dominicans Ride 7-Run 8th to Championship Berth, Puerto Ricans Stay Alive
By Robbie Knopf
Obviously the organizers of the Caribbean Series are impartial regarding the Series’ games. But you couldn’t have really blamed them if they were rooting for the Dominican Republic to beat Mexico on Tuesday night. Entering Tuesday, the DR was 3-1, Mexico and Venezuela were 2-2, and Puerto Rico was 1-3. If the Dominicans didn’t win, there would be a chance that all four teams would finish 3-3, creating a nightmare scenario trying to figure out which two teams should play in the championship game. Luckily for the organizers, the Dominicans found a way to win on Tuesday- although the other three teams are all 2-3 now- althoguh worst-case scenario after Wednesday is a 1-game playoff to see who will play the DR in the championship.
Leones de Escogido (Dominican Republic) 11, Yaquis de Obregon (Mexico) 6
The only word you could possibly use to describe the Leones’ performance was embarrassing. They had built up a 4-1 lead after 2 and a half innings, including a Miguel Tejada 2-run home run, and it looked like they were pulling away. Instead, they gave it all back and then some. They simply got sloppy. A Tejada error followed by a Alfredo Figaro balk placed a runner on second base before Doug Clark singled him in to make it a 4-2 game. Then another error by Jose Ramirez set up Barbaro Canizares‘ 2-run double, and suddenly the game was tied. Then in the 4th, there were 2 outs and a runner on second base when Figaro imploded, allowing a go-ahead triple to Alfredo Amezaga followed by another RBI single by Clark, and suddenly it was 6-4 in favor of Obregon. Willy Lebron followed the enigmatic Figaro with 3.1 shutout innings, but things looked bleak for Escogido after Dennys Reyes tossed 4.1 perfect relief frames for the Yaquis, striking out 7. But by the 8th inning, the Leones had finally had enough. After not managing a single baserunner from the 4th to the 7th, suddenly they became impossible to get out. There were 2 outs and a runner on 1st when Miguel Tejada singled. A pair of walks then allowed a run to cross, but in came big league reliever Luis Ayala to escape trouble- but Escogido wouldn’t let him. Abraham Almonte drilled a go-ahead 2-run single off Ayala. Then Julio Lugo added a run with an RBI single. And finally, Ramirez wiped his error and wiped away all of the Leones’ frustration with a 3-run home run, and suddenly a 2-run deficit had turned into a blowout going the other way. Fernando Rodney tossed a perfect inning to end it as Escogido won 11-6, clinching a berth in the Caribbean Series championship game. They had a horrific start to the game as Figaro lasted just 3.2 innings allowing 6 runs (only 3 earned) and their defense made four errors (three by Ramirez), but with the game on the line they destroyed Obregon pitching and proved without a doubt that they’re a force to be reckoned with in this year’s Caribbean Series.
Criollos de Caguas (Puerto Rico) 4, Navegantes de Magallanes (Venezuela) 1
After they started the Caribbean Series 0-3, it looked like Caguas would be heading for an early elimination. Instead, they have come up huge to win the last tow games and enter the final day of the Series with a chance to appear in the championship game as they breezed by Magallanes 4-1. Efrain Nieves gave the Criollos 5 strong innings, allowing just 1 run on 4 hits, striking out 3 while walking 2, and Derek Blacksher, Ricard Gomez, and Saul Rivera combined to allow just 1 hit in the final 4 innings while striking out 5 to hold the Navegantes to 1 run in the game. Their offense would do the rest, rebounding from a Mario Lisson solo homer in the 2nd inning that gave Magallanes a 2-0 lead with 4 unanswered runs including a Ramon Castro home run and 2 runs created by Jesus Feliciano, who went 3 for 5 with a stolen base, an RBI, and a run scored in the game. The Criollos beat the Dominicans on Monday and were able to continue their momentum, and if they can beat Mexico on Wednesday, they will clinch at least an opportunity one-game playoff to play in the championship game, something no one would have thought possible just a few days ago.