The Caribbean leagues continue their playoffs, though the Mexican Pacific League has the night off….
PUERTO RICAN LEAGUE
Leones de Ponce 5, Senadores de San Juan 2 — Reliever JR Rodriguez earned his first playoff save with a perfect 9th inning for Los Leones. His teammates broke a 2-2 tie in the bottom of the 7th with a 2-run homer, followed by another run on two singles, a sacrifice bunt, and a wild pitch.
Criollos de Caguas 4, Gigantes de Carolina 0 — Los Gigantes were held to just 4 hits, and even with 5 walks, they could not push a run across the plate. Los Criollos were held to just 3 hits, but they took advantage of 7 walks, 3 hit batters, and 2 errors to score their 4 runs. Their first run came in the bottom of the 1st, on a hit batter, a sacrifice bunt by SS Luis Figueroa, two walks, and a sacrifice fly. 3B Ramon Vazquez led off the 4th with a single, and he came around to score with help from a bunt, a wild pitch, and a sacrifice fly. Los Criollos’ final two runs scored in the 6th, and with just one hit. Vazquez reached on a fielding error, then a hit batter, a balk, and a sacrifice fly brought him in. Figueroa drove in the final run with an RBI double.
Gigantes del Cibao 7, Toros del Este 5 — Los Toros began the scoring with 4 runs in the bottom of the 4th — three singles, and a 3-run homer. Los Gigantes answered with 4 runs of their own in the top of the 5th, on 5 singles and a sacrifice fly. One of the singles, which loaded the bases, came off the bat of CF Rich Thompson. Los Toros scored one more run in the bottom of the 5th, but Los Gigantes scored 3 in the top of the 7th, with 4 singles and a sacrifice fly.
Leones del Escogido 2, Estrellas de Oriente 1 — Ronny Paulino, making a rare appearance playing first base, drove in Los Estrellas only run with an RBI ground out in the 1st inning. With one out in the 6th, Los Leones popped two singles. Franquelis Osoria came on to pitch for Los Estrellas, but the only batter he faced hit an RBI single to tie the game. Another single brought in the go-ahead run.
A few Pirates’ players and friends appeared in Wednesday’s winter league playoff games:
Leones del Caracas 2, Aguilas de Zulia 0 (Game 1)– Another pitching duel tonight, with each team posting just 5 hits each. Los Leones scored a run in the 6th on a single, a bunt, a ground out, and an RBI single. They added another run in the 7th, on a ground-rule double, a sacrifice bunt by LF Mike Ryan (who was shifted over from Los Navegantes del Magallanes) and an RBI ground out. Jose Ascanio pitched the top of the 8th for Caracas. He gave up a lead-off single, but got the next batter to line into a double play at first base, and another line out ended the inning.
Leones 14, Aguilas 5 (Game 2) — Oh, that’s where all the hits went — to the second game, with 13 hits for each team. Three Leones’ batters collected 3 hits each. C Carlos Maldonado singled twice and walked, scoring twice for Los Leones. LF Mike Ryan also scored twice, with a single and a walk. The 6-run 6th inning pushed Los Leones over the top, and it included 3 walks, a triple, a double, and Maldonado’s RBI single.
Tigres de Aragua 4, Bravos de Margarita 1 — Los Tigres’ pitchers held Los Bravos to just 3 hits, and the only Margarita run came on two errors and an RBI single in the 5th. Aragua scored their first run in the 3rd inning on a single and a double. Four singles, including one by 1B Hector Gimenez, brought in 2 runs in the 5th. A single, a stolen base, and an error gave Los Tigres their last run in the 8th inning. LF Lastings Milledge and CF Jorge Cortes also had a single each in the game.
Estrellas de Oriente 2, Toros del Este 1 — A double, a bunt, and an RBI single in the top of the 10th broke a 1-1 tie to give Los Estrellas the win. A double, a bunt, and an RBI ground out brought in Los Estrellas’ first run in the 6th. A pair of singles around a ground out pushed in a run for Los Toros in the 8th. DH Ronny Paulino singled twice and walked for Los Estrellas, but was out at second base twice and left on base once.
Gigantes del Cibao 9, Leones del Escogido 6 — CF Rich Thompson is looking like a strong addition to Los Gigantes for their playoff drive. He contributed a single, a double, 2 RBI, and a run in tonight’s win. The game began with Thompson’s double, and a bunt and a throwing error allowed the speedy Thompson come around to score. A ground out and a wild pitch gave Los Gigantes a second run in the top of the 1st. Los Leones tied the score in the bottom of the inning. Thompson gave Los Gigantes the lead again in the top of the 2nd, with an RBI ground out that followed 3 singles. Escogido took the lead back in the bottom of the frame with 3 runs, for a 5-3 score. Los Gigantes tied the score at 5-5 with two singles and two doubles in the 4th. Then they recaptured the lead in the 5th, scoring 3 runs on a pair of two-out singles and a pair of fielding errors. Thompson drove in Los Gigantes’ final run in the top of the 7th, with an RBI single following a double.
Cheering for the Pirates’ players and friends in Sunday’s winter league play…
PUERTO RICAN LEAGUE (playoffs)
Criollos de Caguas 5, Gigantes de Carolina 0 — Caguas’ starter Dylan Owen (Mets) pitched 7 no-hit innings, and two relievers finished the deal with a string of 6 consecutive ground outs. Owen walked 2 Carolina batters, one to lead off the 2nd, and one to lead off the 7th. Los Criollos scored one run in the 4th. The bottom of the 5th began with a walk by 3B Ramon Vazquez, then a bunt and a throwing error put runners on the corners, and a walk loaded the bases. SS Luis Figueroa bounced into a double play, but that let Vazquez score from third base. Two RBI singles brought in two more runs. A walk and two throwing errors (5 total errors for Los Gigantes) gave Caguas their final run in the 7th.
Leones de Ponce 5, Senadores de San Juan 4 — Los Leones were leading 4-2 going into the top of the 8th, which opened with a walk. Los Leones brought in RJ Rodriguez to pitch, but he gave up a walk and made a throwing error, with allowed a run to come in. A hit batter and an RBI grounder tied the score, and Rodriguez was charged with a Blown Save. Rodriguez retired the side on three ground outs in the top of the 9th, and in the bottom of the 9th, he was saved. A hit batter, a double, and a walk-off single gave Ponce and Rodriguez the win.
DOMINICAN LEAGUE (playoffs)
Estrellas de Oriente 2, Leones del Escogido 1 — Not a lot of hits in this game either. Los Leones were held to 3 hits, and scored one run in the 1st, on a single a walk, and a wild pitch. Los Estrellas tied the score with a solo homer in the 3rd. They took the lead in the 6th on back-to-back doubles, the first by DH Ronny Paulino. Franquelis Osoria pitched to one batter in the 4th for Los Estrellas. He threw a wild pitch, but got a strikeout.
Just a few more days in the winter leagues’ regular seasons…
DOMINICAN LEAGUE (round robin playoff series)
Leones del Escogido 6, Gigantes del Cibao 4 — Three runs in the bottom of the 6th gave Los Leones the win, despite being out-hit 13 – 12. Former Pirate Rich Thompson made his first Dominican League appearance, playing right and center field for Los Gigantes. He singled twice and walked, and drove in Los Gigantes’ first run in the top of the 2nd inning.
Toros del Este 4, Estrellas de Oriente 0 — Los Estrellas also had the better hit totals (8-6) but still lost when they couldn’t push any runners across the plate. DH Ronny Paulino, taken from Los Tigres del Licey in the pre-playoff draft, doubled for Los Estrellas.
PUERTO RICAN LEAGUE
Leones de Ponce 7, Gigantes de Carolina 1 (Game 1) — Los Leones scored in each of the last four innings of the 7-inning game, posting 12 hits. Los Gigantes managed only 4 hits, and scored their only run on a solo homer in the bottom of the 7th. Eric Krebs came in from the bullpen for Los Gigantes when another reliever was ejected (after hitting a batter). Krebs threw a wild pitch, moving runners to second and third bases. A ground out brought in the runner from third base (charged to the previous pitcher), then Krebs ended the inning with a strikeout.
Leones 7, Gigantes 6 (Game 2) — Benji Gonzalez got the start at second base for Los Gigantes. He doubled to lead off the bottom of the 1st, and scored on a ground out and a fielding error. Gonzalez walked to load the bases in the 5th, and a sacrifice fly gave Los Gigantes a second run. Ponce scored 3 runs in the 3rd on two singles and two doubles, then 2 runs in the 5th on a single, a walk, and a 2-RBI triple. A single and a pair of doubles gave them two more in the top of the 7th, and Los Gigantes were behind 7-2 going into the bottom of the 7th (a 7-inning game). With RJ Rodriguez on the mound for Los Leones, Los Gigantes rallied in the bottom of 7th. Gonzalez opened the frame with a walk, then went to second base on a passed ball. With two outs (both strikeouts), A double plated Gonzalez, then a walk, a wild pitch, and a triple gave Los Gigantes two more runs. The second wild pitch of the inning brought in the 4th run. CF Luis Matos was hit by a pitch, but Rodriguez finally got a third strikeout to end the inning and the game.
The Dominican League has finished regular season play. The four top teams — Estrellas de Oriente, Leones del Escogido, Toros del Este, and Gigantes del Cibao — will begin a round robin playoff tournament on Sunday. Los Estrellas, Los Leones, and Los Toros all finished the regular season with identical 27-22 records, in a 3-way tie for first place. In the Dominican League, the four top teams are allowed to “draft” players from the other two teams to help them out during the playoffs. Los Estrellas drafted C Ronny Paulino from Los Tigres del Licey. Los Leones drafted Indy area native 1B/OF Jake Fox from Los Tigres. Los Gigantes drafted OF Kevin Melillo from Los Aguilas Cibaenas.
The Venezuelan and Puerto Rican Leagues have both Friday and Saturday off, and resume play on Sunday. The Mexican Pacific League has Friday off, but has a full slate of games scheduled for Christmas evening.
And, a few other minor league contracts signed by former Pirate farmhands: C Michel Hernandez re-signed with the Orioles, INF Ray Chang signed with the Twins, and P Derek Hankins signed with the Rangers.
OK, on to Thursday night’s action for the Pirates’ players and friends:
PUERTO RICAN LEAGUE
Gigantes del Carolina 5, Indios de Mayaguez 4 — Los Gigantes scored 2 runs in the 1st and 4th innings, and a single run in the 3rd, then held off late-inning pushes by Los Indios to get the win. 2B Benji Gonzalez signled in the 2nd inning, but was picked off first base.
Criollos de Caguas 6, Senadores de San Juan 3 — Two walks, a single, a sacrifice fly, and a 2-run triple gave San Juan a 3-run lead in the bottom of the 1st inning, but that was all the scoring they would do. Los Criollos started their come-back in the 3rd inning, with a walk, a single, and a 2-RBI double by 3B Ramon Vazquez. A hit batter and a double plated a single run in the 4th, then two errors and an RBI single by Vazquez brought in another run in the 5th. A 2-run homer added their final runs in the 8th.