Rays Winter Ball Recap: Wes Bankston, Russell Branyan HR in Slugfest
One correctly timed swing gives you a chance to become a postseason hero. Of course, your team has to find a way to win the game. Wes Bankston, Jon Weber, and Russell Branyan all had big games, but Bankston and Weber will be remembered while Branyan is forgotten simply because Bankston and Weber got more help. Aren’t the history books so annoying?
Dominican Winter League Postseason: Tigres del Licey 4, Aguilas Cibaenas 1
Joey Terdoslavich went 2 for 4 with a run scored to raise his average to .382 in the postseason, but he was one of the few highlights for Cibaenas. Hector Luna went 0 for 4 while Omar Luna saw time as a defensive replacement. Esmil Rogers of the Toronto Blue Jays was dominant in his start, going 6 shutout innings working around 2 hits and 2 walks while striking out 4, and ex-Ray Juan Cruz finished it off for his third save, allowing just a hit in 1.1 innings pitched while forcing a trio of groundouts. The win moved Licey into second place in the DWL postseason round-robin at 7-7.
Gigantes del Cibao 6, Leones del Escogido 5 (10 innings)
The Leones have been excellent so far in the DWL postseason, but the Gigantes finally found a way to stop them in this one. Freddy Guzman did go 1 for 4 with a stolen base for Escogido while Julio Lugo went 1 for 3 with 2 walks and a run scored, but it was not quite enough. One-time Arizona Diamondbacks reliever Zach Kroenke had a strong start for Cibao, working around 6 hits to allow just 1 run in 5 innings, and the Gigantes survived a bullpen collapse to win in extra innings. Mayo Acosta and Ray Olmedo went a combined 0 for 6 in the win for Cibao.
Mexican Pacific League Second Round: Mayos de Navojoa 9, Aguilas de Mexicali 6
Russell Branyan’s homer in the bottom of the first inning gave Mexicali a 2-1 lead. That proved to be the only time they led in the game. Wes Bankston’s second inning homer sparked a 4-run inning for the Mayos to take a 5-2 lead, and Jon Weber drove in 2 runs along the way as the Mayos never looked back. Weber went 3 for 5 with a double and those 2 RBI while Bankston went 1 for 4 with his homer and a walk, but Branyan got little help from his teammates after his homer, walking three times but not scoring a single time. Weber has seen his average reach .429 in the MPL playoffs, second among all qualifying hitters. The win knotted the series between the two teams at a game apiece.
Caneros de los Mochis 10, Naranjeros de Hermosillo 3
The Mexican Pacific League playoff format is quite interesting. Six teams (out of eight) make the playoffs, which the number 1 seed playing the 6 seed, the 2 playing the 5, and the 3 playing the 3. Then the two lowest-seeded victorious teams play each other while the highest remaining seed plays the “lucky loser,” the losing team that won the most games in their first round series (or had the best run differential in the case of a tie). Hermosillo, the No. 1 seed, did not have too much trouble, but now they find themselves facing the “lucky loser” and the Caneros will not go down without a fight. In this game, Jason Bourgeois went 2 for 5 with an RBI and a run scored out of the leadoff spot to continue his strong postseason and ignite the Caneros’ offense. Bourgeois is hitting .306 in his 8 games.
Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League Playoffs: Idios de Mayaguez 5, Gigantes del Carolina 4
The Gigantes lost to fall to an embarrassing 1-7 in RCPBL postseason round-robin, and Jesus Feliciano was the only reason it was as close as it was. Feliciano went 4 for 5 out of the leadoff spot, scoring a run in the 3rd to give Carolina a 1-0 lead before delivering a 2-out single in the 8th that tied the game at 3. Even after the great game, though, Feliciano is hitting just .250 in his 8 contests, and him slowing down is a big reason why the Gigantes have struggled so mightily. Robinson Cancel also went 1 for 3 for the Gigantes while Travis Schlichting retired the only batter he faced in relief for Mayaguez. Schlichting was a 4th round selection by the Devil Rays in 2003 before making the major leagues with the Los Angeles Dodgers after getting converted to the mound. He has tossed 3.1 shutout innings for Mayaguez so far in the postseason. While the Gigantes have struggled, Mayaguez has been on the other side of the coin, going 7-1.
Venezuelan Winter League Postseason: Caribes de Anzoátegui 5, Leones del Caracas 1
A big part of the Caracas loss was Bobby Abreu not coming up with another huge game, going just 1 for 4, although he did score the only run. The sad part, though, was that Henry Wrigley had a huge game but did not get any help from his teammates, going 4 for 4 but not factoring in the scoring. Wrigley may not be hitting .500 in the playoffs like Abreu, but he is hitting to an impressive .389 clip. He is going to have to keep playing out of his mind as he hopes to secure another minor league deal after a rough 2013. The winning margin in this game for the Caribes was two improbable homers and 4 RBI from 9th place hitter Jackson Melian.
Tiburones de La Guaira 4, Navegantes del Magallanes 3
This game actually had something of a major league pitching matchup as Carlos Zambrano went for Magallanes against Henderson Alvarez for La Guaira, and the two lived up to the billing. Zambrano went 5.2 innings allowing just 1 run on 2 hits (although he did walk 5) while Alvarez went 5 innings allowing 2 runs on 6 hits, striking out 5 while walking none. From there it became a battle of the bullpens, but the Navegantes fell apart at the end of this one as the Tiburones scored 3 in the 9th to win. San Francisco Giants reliever Jean Machi has impressed as the closer for Magallanes, but he was unavailable for this game and that made all the difference. On the offensive side, ex-Rays minor leaguers Alex Cabrera and Cesar Suarez both had big games for the Tiburones, with Cabrera going 2 for 4 with an RBI and Suarez going 2 for 4 with a hit in that fateful 9th inning. Bruedlin Suero also tossed 0.2 shutout innings in the win for La Guaira.