Lots of playoff action in the winter leagues on Friday night:
Toros del Este 2, Estrellas de Oriente 1 — SS Pedro Ciriaco, who has not been in Los Toros’ recent playoff games, started off the scoring in this game. He singled to lead off the 3rd inning, and moved to second base on a sacrifice bunt. He stole second base, and scored on an RBI single. Ciriaco also reached base on an error in the 5th, and made it as far as third base, but did not score. Los Toros scored again on a walk and two singles in the 7th inning. Los Toros’ starter Fernando Abad pitched 6 no-hit innings, including 6 strikeouts. The only runner to reach base against him got there on a fielding error in the 6th, and Abad finished the inning with two grounder force outs. Reliever Jairo Asencio followed Abad with 2 perfect innings. Los Estrellas’ only hit and only run came in the top of the 9th, when reliever Julio Manon gave up a walk and a double, and the runner from third base scored on a wild pitch. Los Toros have won the first three games of this 9-game series.
PUERTO RICAN LEAGUE
Leones de Ponce 1, Criollos de Caguas 0 — Pitching ruled in the Puerto Rican League also. Ponce starter Willie Collazo pitched 9 shut-out innings, allowing just 2 singles and 2 walks. SS Luis Figueroa walked in the 1st inning, and he was Los Criollos’ only base runner for the first 6 innings. Collazo allowed a single and a walk in the 7th, and another single in the 8th. Los Leones posted 7 hits and had 5 walks, but they fell victim to 4 double plays, and left 8 runners on base. The only run scored in the 2nd, when the inning opened with a double and two singles. One of the double plays cut the rally short. This series is now tied at one game each.
The Dominican and Puerto Rican Leagues wind up their round-robin playoff series this weekend, while the Venezuelans continue theirs for another week or so.
PUERTO RICAN LEAGUE
Criollos de Caguas 5, Gigantes de Carolina 2 — Los Criollos began the scoring with a fly out-RBI for 3B Ramon Vazquez after two singles. An RBI single gave them a run in the 3rd, and a 2-run homer made it 4-0 in the 5th. Los Criollos wrapped it up with a run in the top of the 7th, on two singles, a walk, and a throwing error. Carolina scratched out a run in both the 7th and 8th innings. SS Luis Figueroa singled and walked for Los Criollos, but did not score.
Leones de Ponce 7, Senadores de San Juan 2 — A 4-run inning in the top of the 8th gave Los Leones the win. San Juan out-hit Ponce, 10 – 9, but they couldn’t bring the runners around, leaving 11 on base. RJ Rodriguez pitched the bottom of the 9th for Ponce, but gave up three consecutive singles to open the inning, which drove in one run. He struck out two, then loaded the bases with another single, then ended the inning with a grounder force out.
Aguilas de Zulia 7, Bravos de Margarita 4 — Los Bravos got the game started with 3 runs in the top of the 1st, on three singles and two throwing errors. But Los Aguilas scored a run in the bottom of the 1st, another in the 3rd, and took the lead with a 3-run homer in the 5th. They added a run on a double and a triple in the 6th, and their 7th run on a double, a hit batter, and a single in the 7th. Jhonathan Ramos came on in relief for Los Bravos after that run scored in the 7th, and he ended the inning with a ground out. Ramos came back out to begin the bottom of the 8th. The first batter of the inning reached on a fielding error, then Ramos gave up a single. A ground out and a line out followed, and then Ramos was relieved. Another ground out ended the inning without a run scoring.
Caribes de Anzoategui 6, Leones de Caracas 5 — This one took 13 innings to decide. Los Leones broke a 2-2 tie in the top of the 8th when C Carlos Maldonado started a rally with a single. He was replace by a pinch-runner, who scored on an RBI single. Los Caribes tied the score again with a 2-run homer in the bottom of the 9th, and the game went into extras. Neither team could get much going in the 10th or 11th, and though Los Caribes threatened in the bottom of the 12th, they still could not get a run across. Los Leones broke the tie in the top of the 13th. A double, an intentional walk, and a fielder’s choice loaded the bases. A grounder to third was fired back to the plate, for a force out at home. Then LF Mike Ryan, who had already singled twice and walked three times in the game, grounded to second base. The runner going from first to second was out, but Ryan was able to beat out the throw to first, and a run scored. But Los Caribes were not done yet — a single and two walks loaded the bases in the bottom of the frame, and a line drive single into left field drove in two runs for the win. Jose Ascanio pitched a perfect inning in the bottom of the 8th for Caracas.
Happy New Year!
The Australians have started the new year with some baseball, early Saturday morning for the rest of us. The Caribbean leagues will be in playoff mode now. The Dominicans have already started their round robin style playoff tournament. The Mexican Pacific League begins their playoffs tonight, and the rest will be in action on Sunday.
Adelaide Bite 5, Canberra Cavalry 2 — Not a lot of hits for either team. The Cavalry had 6 hits, and two of them were solo home runs, one in the 7th and one in the 8th inning. That was all of their scoring. The Bite needed only 2 of their 5 hits to score 5 runs in the 7th. The inning began with a walk and a hit batter. A sacrifice bunt moved the runners into scoring position, and an RBI ground out brought in the first Bite run. A pair of walks loaded the bases, and the Cavalry changed pitchers. But the new pitcher walked LF Quincy Latimore to force in the second run of the inning. Two singles drove in 3 more runs, and the Bite had all they needed. Latimore also singled in the 4th and stole second base, then walked in the 6th. Jackson Lodge pitched the top of the 9th for the Bite, and gave up a single, while striking out two batters, to earn his first save.
Just in case you were wondering for the new year…. 96 days until the Indy Indians (and the rest of the minor leagues’) Opening Day.
Another minor league free agent signed: Pitcher Neal Cotts signed with the Yankees.
Looking in on some of the Pirates’ players and friends in Thursday’s winter league action.. the Dominican League has the night off, and there were some games postponed in Venezuela.
Leones del Caracas 9, Aguilas de Zulia 5 – A 4-run 8th inning made the difference for Los Leones. Jose Ascanio pitched a scoreless bottom of the 8th for Caracas. He gave up a walk and a single with one out, but then got a double play to get out of the inning.
Cardenales de Lara 3, Tigres de Aragua 0 — LF Lastings Milledge, 1B Hector Gimenez, and C Raul Chavez each posted a single for Los Tigres, but none could come around to score. Both Milledge and Gimenez had their singles in the 4th, after a walk. The lead runner tried to score from second on Milledge’s single, but Lara CF Ray Sadler’s throw to the plate was right on targer, and the runner was out at home. Sadler went 0-for-2 and was hit by a pitch.
PUERTO RICAN LEAGUE
Criollos de Caguas 2, Indios de Mayaguez 1 (Game 1) — Los Indios scored a run with a lead-off triple and a single in the top of the 1st, then did not score again for the rest of the game, despite out-hitting Los Criollos 8-5. 3B Ramon Vazquez started a rally for Los Criollos with a 2-out walk in the 2nd inning. A pair of singles brought him around to score and tie the game at 1-1. A walk, a throwing error, and an RBI double gave Caguas the go-ahead run in the 5th. SS Luis Figueroa was hitless in 3 trips to the plate.
Criollos 2, Indios 1 (Game 2) — Yes, same score in the night-cap. Three Caguas pitchers combined for a one-hitter. Los Indios scored their run in the 5th, beginning with a walk and ending with a sacrifice fly. Los Criollos scored one run in each of the 3rd and 4th innings. Neither Figueroa nor Vazquez got into this game.
Leones de Ponce 2, Senadores de San Juan 1 — Really, same score again. RJ Rodriguez earned his 10th save of the season with a scoreless 9th inning for Ponce. He walked the first batter, then retired the next three to end the game.
Cheering for Pirates’ players and friends in Wednesday’s winter league action (the new minor league free agents did not get into the games):
PUERTO RICAN LEAGUE
Criollos de Caguas 2, Leones de Ponce 1 — Not a lot of hitting or scoring here. Ponce scored one run in the 3rd inning on a pair of doubles. Los Criollos tied it up in the 6th with a walk, a single, and a throwing error. 3B Ramon Vazquez walked, then another single brought in the winning run. SS Luis Figueroa singled in the 1st inning, but was left on base.
Caribes de Anzoategui 2, Navegantes del Magallanes 1 — Same thing in this game, not much offense. The difference is that Los Caribes scored one run in two different innings — a homer in the 2nd, and a double, a single, and an RBI grounder in the 7th. Los Navegantes scored on a double and two wild pitches in the 6th. Reliever Jean Machi pitched a perfect bottom of the 8th for Los Navegantes: two strikeouts and a ground out.
Tiburones de La Guaira 5, Aguilas del Zulia 4 — This first game of a double-header was supposed to be only 7 innings, but the score was tied at 1-1 from the 5th through the 7th. Los Tiburones scored 2 in the top of the 8th on a 2-run homer. With Chris Hernandez on the mound for La Guaira, Los Aguilas responded with a 2-run homer in the bottom of the 8th, and Hernandez was charged with a Blown Save. Then three singles gave La Guaira the go-ahead run again in the top of the 9th. An error and a wild pitch added an insurance run, which they would need. Zulia scored a run in the bottom of the inning on three singles, but their rally was cut short, and Los Tiburones held on for the win, credited to Hernandez.
Estrellas de Oriente 5, Tigres del Licey 4 — Los Tigres started the scoring in the 4th inning, on a single, a wild pitch, and an RBI single by Jake Fox. Fox moved to second on an error on a pick-off attempt, then scored on an RBI single. Robinzon Diaz also singled in the inning. Diaz also singled in the 8th after a walk, and two errors on the play brought the run in. A home run in the 6th gave Los Tigres one more run. Los Estrellas scored one run in the 4th, and collected a 2-run homer in the 5th. They took the lead in the bottom of the 8th on four singles.
Toros del Este 10, Aguilas Cibaenas 1 — Los Aguilas scored one run on a triple and a sacrifice bunt in the 2nd inning, then gave up 10 unanswered runs, including 6 Toros’ runs in the 8th inning. SS Pedro Ciriaco walked in the 3rd inning but was out in a force play at second base. He was 0-for-3 for the rest of the night.
MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE
Tomateros de Culiacan 2, Venados de Mazatlan 1 — Los Venados were held to just 2 hits, and scored their only run in the 5th, on a walk, a stolen base, and an RBI ground out. Culiacan’s 2-run homer in the 2nd inning was all the scoring they needed. LF Rogelios Noris came into the game as a late-inning defensive replacement, and struck out in his only plate appearance.
The game between the Adelaide Bite and the Canberra Cavalry had to be postponed. They will try for a double-header on Friday (early Friday morning for most of us). The two teams are already scheduled to play a double-header on Saturday.
The Bite are reporting that the Pirates have signed reliever Jackson Lodge to a contract. Lodge is a product of the Australian Baseball Academy, where he had a 2-3 record and a 2.03 ERA in 40 innings last year. Lodge has pitched in 4 games for the Bite so far this season, with mixed results. On Nov 13th, he pitched the 8th inning of the Bite’s 8-3 win over Melbourne. After striking out the first batter, Lodge gave up two doubles and two singles, for 2 runs. On the 18th, he pitched to 4 batters in the Bite’s win over Perth, and retired all four, including one strikeout. Two days later, he earned a “Hold” in another victory over Perth, but he faced only two batters — a ground out and a single, and that runner eventually came around to score. On the 26th, Lodge came on in relief in the 4th when the starting pitcher had to leave the game due to an arm injury. Lodge hit the first batter he faced, then ended the inning with a ground out. But he got into trouble in the 5th, giving up 2 runs on a walk, three singles, and a sacrifice fly. He retired two batters in the 6th, then was relieved. It will be interesting to see where Lodge is assigned in the US — the Pirates will surely be watching his progress in the ABL.