Cheering for Pirates’ players and friends in the few winter league playoff games on Sunday….
Gigantes del Cibao 8, Toros del Este 2 — A 7-run 7th inning by Los Gigantes included a 2-run homer and a 3-run homer, and it gave them all the firepower they would need. Former Indy Indian Tim Harikkala finished the 5th inning after Los Toros scored their runs, then loaded the bases with a double and two walks in the 6th, though another reliever was able to end the inning without a run scoring. Juan Perez pitched the 8th inning for Los Gigantes and struck out the side.
PUERTO RICAN LEAGUE
Leones de Ponce 7, Gigantes de Carolina 6 — 2B Benji Gonzalez singled and tripled for Los Gigantes, but Ponce pulled it out with 2 runs in the bottom of the 10th. Los Gigantes began the game with 3 runs in the top of the 1st. They added a run in the 6th on a single and Gonzalez’s RBI triple. A double and a single gave them another run in the 7th. Los Leones scored one run in the 5th, then tied the score with 3 walks and a grand slam in the 7th. The game went into extra innings, but Carolina quickly scored a run in the top of the 10th with a single and a double. But in the bottom of the frame, Ponce had a runner reach base on an error, and a 2-run homer gave them the walk-off win. Gonzalez also singled in the 4th but was caught stealing.
Senadores de San Juan 8, Criollos de Caguas 2 — Another game with 3 runs scored in the top of the 1st, and Los Criollos were chasing Los Senadores for the rest of the game. Los Criollos scored their runs in the 7th, on a pair of doubles and an RBI single by 3B Ramon Vazquez. SS Luis Figueroa singled in the 4th, but was left on base.
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.
Just a few winter league playoff games on Monday night.. The Mexican Pacific and Puerto Rican leagues were off tonight.
Gigantes del Cibao 6, Estrellas de Oriente 5 — The game began with a solo home run from the first batter of the game, plus another run in the top of the 1st for Los Estrellas. Los Gigantes tied the score with 2 runs in the bottom of the 2nd. Eight scoreless innings followed, until Los Estrellas scored 3 runs in the top of the 11th, all charged to Los Gigantes’ Juan Perez, on one hit and 3 walks. Ronny Paulino pinch-hit in the inning but struck out. Perez was saved from being charged with the loss when Los Gigantes answered with 4 runs in the bottom of the 11th. One hit and 5 walks contributed to those 4 runs.
Leones del Caracas 8, Aguilas de Zulia 5 — These two teams combined for 29 hits, as Los Caracas cut short Los Aguilas’ 9th inning rally and held on for the win. Caracas scored 3 runs in the bottom of the 1st, on a double, two singles, a hit batter, and a sacrifice fly. They added 3 more runs in the 3rd on three solo homers (not back-to-back), including one by C Carlos Maldonado. Solo homer number four came in the 5th inning. Maldonado drove in Los Leones’ final run with an RBI double after a single in the 7th. Los Aguilas scored one run in the 5th and another in the 8th. They rallied in the top of the 9th with a pair of singles and a 3-run homer, plus a double, but that was all Caracas would allow.
Tigres de Aragua 4, Bravos de Margarita 1 — Los Tigres began the game with 3 runs in the top of the 1st, on two singles and three doubles. 1B Hector Gimenez drove in a run with his RBI single, and LF Lastings Milledge doubled. Los Tigres went on to record 11 hits. Milledge singled in the 4th, but was out at second when CF Jorge Cortes bounced into a double play. A single and a double added another run for Los Tigres in the 8th. Jhonathan Ramos pitched 2 innings for Los Bravos. In the 6th, he retired Los Tigres in order. Ramos began the top of the 7th with two ground outs (Gimenez and Milledge), then gave up a single to Cortes, another single, and hit C Raul Chavez with a pitch to load the bases. But he ended the inning with a pop out, leaving all three runners on base. Los Bravos were held to just 3 hits over the first 8 innings. Two of those hits came in the 4th, when Los Bravos loaded the bases on a hit batter, a walk, and a single. A sacrifice fly drove in their only run of the game. Another single loaded the bases again, but a strikeout ended the inning. Los Bravos threatened again in the bottom of the 9th, loading the bases again on 2 singles and an error. Los Tigres got out of the jam with a pop out in foul territory and a game-ending double play.
The Pirates got the new year started by signing Brian Burres to a minor league contract. He will be at the major league spring training camp, competing for a position on the big league club.
The Caribbean winter leagues continue their playoffs, and we continue to cheer for the Pirates’ players and friends who are involved…
Toros del Este 8, Gigantes del Cibao 1 — Los Gigantes scored a run on two singles and a throwing error in the 1st inning. After that, it was all Los Toros. Los Toros scored 2 in the 4th, 4 in the 7th, and 2 in the 8th, as they posted a total of 14 hits. RF Rich Thompson singled for Los Gigantes in the 2nd inning, and he made a fielding error in the 4th.
Leones del Escogido 3, Estrellas de Oriente 0 — Los Estrellas recorded 5 hits, including a pair of singles by DH Ronny Paulino, but could not push any of their runners across the plate. Los Leones had just 4 hits. They used one, plus a hit batter and a fielding error, to score one run in the 5th. Two more runs came in in the 6th inning, on a pair of walks, a sacrifice bunt, a balk, and a fielder’s choice.
PUERTO RICAN LEAGUE
Senadores de San Juan 4, Criollos de Caguas 1 — Los Senadores’ 3-run 7th inning broke a 1-1 tie and earned them the win. A single, two doubles, and three walks were responsible for the 3 runs. Neither SS Luis Figueroa nor 3B Ramon Vazquez had a hit for Los Criollos.
Gigantes de Carolina 9, Leones de Ponce 8 — Finally, in the bottom of the 15th, a walk and two singles gave Los Gigantes the winning run. Los Leones were leading 8-5 going into the bottom of the 9th. Ponce reliever RJ Rodriguez had gotten out of a bases-loaded jam in the 8th with two pop outs. He started the 9th with two ground outs, then gave up a single and a wild pitch, putting a runner on third base. A double drove in that runner, then a walk and two singles tied the score, sending the game into extras, and putting Rodriguez on the hook for a Blown Save. Each team had at least one runner on base in each of the next three innings, and Los Gigantes collected 3 walks to load the bases in the 11th, but no one scored. Both teams went down in order in the 13th, then both teams continued to put runners on base, until Los Gigantes finished it off in the 15th. Benji Gonzalez pinch-ran for Los Gigantes in the 8th, but was left on base. He played second base for an inning, then was lifted for a pinch-hitter.
Looking in on Pirates’ players and friend in Monday’s winter league action:
Leones del Caracas 6, Cardenales de Lara 5 — Two runs in the bottom of the 9th gave Los Leones and Jose Ascanio the win. Los Cardenales were leading 5-4 in the top of the 8th, when Ascanio came in from the bullpen with one out and a runner on first base. Ascanio’s catcher picked the runner off first base, recorded as a caught stealing, then Ascanio got a ground out to end the inning. He gave up a single in the top of the 9th, but kept Los Cardenales from scoring. Then in the bottom of the 9th, with Ray Sadler coming in to play center field for Lara, Los Leones eked out a single and a walk. A passed ball on ball four put runners on the corners for Los Leones. A single into center field drove n the run from third, for the walk-off win. Ascanio was the pitcher of record, so was credited with his first Venezuelan League win.
Bravos de Margarita 4, Caribes de Anzoategui 0 — LF Jose Tabata went 0-for-3 with a walk for Los Caribes, who recorded 8 hits, but could not push any of their base runners across the plate. They left a total of 11 runners on base and were 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position. Los Bravos scored 3 runs in the 5th, on a double, two singles, a walk, and a fielding error. A solo homer added a fourth run in the 6th. Jhonathan Ramos came on to pitch for Margarita in the 7th, with two outs. He loaded the bases with a single and two walks, then was relieved, but due to Los Caribes’ lack of luck, another reliever got Tabata to fly out to end the inning, leaving three runners on base.
Aguilas de Zulia 6, Navegantes del Magallanes 3 — Fernando Nieve struggled through 2.2 innings and was eventually charged with the loss for Magallanes. He gave up a solo homer to the second batter of the game, then gave up two runs in the 2nd on two singles and a double. Three singles and a double steal brought in two more runs for Zulia in the 3rd, and that was all for Nieve — 5 runs on 8 hits, no walks, with 4 strikeouts. Two more singles added another run for Los Aguilas in the top of the 7th. Los Navegantes started their scoring in the bottom of the 7th. Former Pirate farmhand JR House, who made the jump over from the Dominican League, came into the game as a pinch-runner after a 2-out single. A walk and an RBI single allowed House to score Magallanes’ first run. House remained in the game to play first base, and he flied out in the 9th. A walk, a double, and a fielding error gave Los Navegantes 2 runs in the bottom of the 8th.
Tigres de Aragua 7, Tiburones de La Guaira 3 — Wil Ledezma also earned his first Venezuelan League win with 1.2 hitless and scoreless innings of work. Los Tigres started scoring in the bottom of the 1st, when SS Ronny Cedeno reached base on a fielding error, then scored on a double. C Raul Chavez blasted a 2-run homer in the 2nd, to give Aragua a 3-0 lead. Los Tiburones scored 2 runs in the top of the 3rd on three singles and two walks, then tied the score in the top of the 4th on a double, a bunt, and an RBI ground out. Ledezma came in from the bullpen in the 4th, and ended the 4th, then retired the side in order in the 5th. He was still the pitcher of record when Los Tigres scored 3 runs in the bottom of the 5th. Chavez walked, and moved to second base on CF Jorge Cortes’ sacrifice bunt. Cedeno singled, putting runners on the corners, then a sacrifice fly plated Chavez. A 2-run homer by DH Wilson Ramos brought in Cedeno. 1B Hector Gimenez also doubled after the homer. Three walks, including one by Gimenez, and a wild pitch gave Los Tigres an insurance run in the 8th.