Homers For Milledge, Ryan, and Cruz

Cheering for the Pirates’ players and friends in winter league playoff action …

VENEZUELAN LEAGUE
Tigres de Aragua  5,  Bravos de Margarita  4  —  
A double and a single in the top of the 10th gave Los Tigres the winning run.  Los Tigres had started the scoring in the top of the 1st, on three singles, including an RBI single by LF Lastings Milledge.  Los Bravos countered with a 3-run homer in the bottom of the 4th.   Milledge tied the score with a solo home run in the top of the 6th.  With Jean Machi on the mound for Margarita in the top of the 8th, a walk, a sacrifice bunt, and a wild pitch put a Tigres’ batter on third base, and he scored on an RBI single.  Machi came back to pitch a quick 1-2-3 inning in the top of the 9th.  Los Bravos tied the score again in the bottom of the 9th on a solo homer.  Los Tigres broke the tie in the top of the 10th, then held off Los Bravos in the bottom of the frame.  Wil Ledezma pitched a perfect 6th inning for Los Tigres, then gave up a 2-out single in the 7th.  C Raul Chavez and 1B Hector Gimenez picked that runner off first base to get Los Tigres out of the inning.  Gimenez went 0-for-4 at the plate, and Chavez went 0-for-2.  Miguel Perez came into the game as a late-inning defensive replacement behind the plate, but did not have a plate appearance.  

Leones del Caracas  10,  Caribes de Anzoategui  6  —  Seven runs in the top of the 1st gave Los Leones an edge that Los Caribes could not overcome.  Los Leones sent 11 batters to the plate in the 1st inning, and the first 6 batters reached base safely:  single, single, walk, grand slam, single, single (by C Carlos Maldonado).  After a pop out, LF Mike Ryan hit a 2-run homer, which was followed by a double, before the inning ended.  Maldonado added another RBI single in the 2nd inning, and Caracas picked up another 2-run homer in the top of the 9th.  Los Caribes scored in all but one of the first 6 innings, but four of those innings brought in just one run, not enough to catch up.

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A Win For Machi

The Pirates’ mini-camp begins tomorrow in Bradenton….  just 35 days until Spring Training begins,  81 days until major league opening day, and 87 days until the minor league opening day (not that anyone here is counting, of course….)

Meanwhile, the Caribbean leagues continue with their playoffs.  The Mexican Pacific League will begin the semifinal round on Tuesday. 

VENEZUELAN LEAGUE 
Caribes de Anzoategui  5,  Leones del Caracas  4  —  
LF Mike Ryan singled in the bottom of the 1st for Los Leones, and a walk, another single, and an error gave Los Caribes 2 runs in that inning.  They added a solo homer in the 5th, followed by a run on a single, two walks, and a sacrifice fly.  Then Los Caribes roared back at Los Leones in the top of the 6th.  A solo homer opened the inning, then a walk and a strikeout were followed by three singles and 2-RBI double, then a sacrifice fly, for 5 runs total.  C Carlos Maldonado went 0-for-4 for Los Leones.

Bravos de Margarita  4,  Aguilas de Zulia  3  —  Jean Machi was credited with the win, as he was the pitcher of record when Los Bravos won the game with a walk-off single in the bottom of the 9th.  Los Aguilas scored 3 runs in the top of the 4th, with a solo homer, and a 2-RBI single.  Three singles gave Los Bravos their first run in the bottom of the 3rd.  With two outs in the bottom of the 5th, three consecutive singles, a fielding error, and a balk brought in 2 more runs for Margarita to tie the score.  Machi came on to pitch the 8th and 9th innings for Los Bravos.  He faced just 6 batters, allowing a single, but then erasing that runner with a double play.  The bottom of the 9th began with a single, then two bunts, one with a throwing error by the Aguilas’ pitcher, put two runners in scoring position.  An intentional walk loaded the bases, and an RBI single ended the game. 

PUERTO RICAN LEAGUE
Criollos de Caguas  4,  Senadores de San Juan  3  —  
Each team had a 3-run homer — Los Criollos’ came in the 4th inning, and Los Senadores’ came in the bottom of the 9th.  The deciding run came in the top of the 6th by Los Criollos.  A double, an intentional walk to 3B Ramon Vazquez, and an RBI single drove in the winning run.  Vazquez walked twice in the game, while SS Luis Figueroa walked once, but neither had a hit.

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Strong Innings by Ledezma and Machi

Cheering for Pirates’ players (the few who are left) and friends in the winter leagues……

PUERTO RICAN LEAGUE
Leones de Ponce  6,  Gigantes de Carolina  3  —  
Four runs in the bottom of the 8th gave the game to Los Leones.  Two walks and four singles did the damage in that inning.  Reliever RJ Rodriguez came on to pitch the top of the 9th for Ponce.  He gave up a run on two singles and a sacrifice fly, though it was not enough for Los Gigantes to catch up.

Criollos de Caguas  7,  Senadores de San Juan  3  —  A 5-run 3rd inning made the difference for Los Criollos.  Two singles put runners on the corners, then SS Luis Figueroa drove in the first run with an RBI single.  A triple and a homer added two runs each.  3B Ramon Vazquez walked to begin the Caguas half of the 4th, and two more walks loaded the bases.  Figueroa brought in Vazquez with a sacrifice fly.  Vazquez also contributed an RBI single in the 5th.  Los Senadores posted 13 runs, but left 12 runners on base.

The four teams involved in the Puerto Rican League playoffs are not far apart after one week of the round robin playoff tournament.  Ponce is in first place, with a 4-2 record.  Caguas and San Juan are tied for second with 3-3 records.  Carolina is last, with a 2-4 record.  

VENEZUELAN LEAGUE
The two top teams in this round robin tournament did not play today — Los Caribes and Los Leones de Caracas are both tied with 4-1 records.  Los Tigres de Aragua has a 3-3 record, Los Aguilas de Zulia are 2-4, and Los Bravos de Margarita won their first playoff game tonight, giving them a 1-4 record.  

Bravos de Margarita  1,  Aguilas de Zulia  0  —  Jean Machi pitched a scoreless 8th inning for Los Bravos, allowing a single, but then erasing that runner in a double play.  The game’s only run came in the bottom of the 7th, on a single, a sacrifice bunt, and a RBI single.  

Tigres de Aragua  8,  Caribes de Anzoategui  0  —  Aragua starter Seth Etherton (Dodgers) held Los Caribes to 3 hits and no walks over 8 shutout innings, with 6 strikeouts for the win.  New Blue Jay Wil Ledezma finished the game with a scoreless 9th, working around a lead-off single.  Los Tigres hitters packed in 16 hits, and started their scoring with 2 runs in the 1st.  LF Lastings Milledge had a single in that inning.  Milledge singled in two runs in the 6th, following another single and 1B Hector Gimenez being hit by a pitch.  Gimenez added a 3-run homer in the 7th.  After the homer, Milledge walked, CF Jorge Cortes singled, and a wild pitch moved both runners into scoring position.  Another single up the middle brought in Milledge, but Cortes was thrown out at the plate as he tried to score from second base.  

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Milledge Drives In The Winning Run For Aragua

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.

DOMINICAN LEAGUE
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.  

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Milledge, Gimenez, and Paulino Get A Few Hits

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…

DOMINICAN LEAGUE
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.

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