Caribes Take Venezuelan Championship

The final playoff game of the Caribbean winter leagues was played on Sunday, finishing up the Venezuelan League championship.  The Caribbean Series begins on Wednesday and lasts six days (Feb 2nd – 7th), and from there, spring training will be right around the corner.

Caribes de Anzoategui  8,  Tigres de Aragua  7  —  
Los Caribes held on for the win in Game 7 of the Venezuelan championship series, despite a 9th inning rally by Los Tigres.  Los Caribes had an early 6-0 lead, thanks to back-to-back homers (2-run and solo) in the 1st inning, and a 3-run homer in the 2nd inning.  Los Tigres got onto the scoreboard in the top of the 3rd, using only one hit.  A single, a hit batter, and a walk loaded the bases.  Two runs were forced in, on when LF Lastings Milledge was hit by a pitch, and one when 1B Hector Gimenez walked.  A wild pitch and a missed catch error by Los Caribes’ pitcher allowed 2 more runs to score, and the score was 6-4.  Los Caribes gained more ground in the 4th with two singles, a walk, and a 2-RBI single.  A solo homer by Los Tigres in the top of the 5th put the score at 8-5.  Los Caribes threatened in the bottom of the 6th, with a single and a double, but an on-target throw from Milledge in left field to C Raul Chavez let Chavez tag the lead runner out at the plate.  Wil Ledezma came on in relief at that point.  He walked the first batter he faced, then got a fly out.  Ledezma was relieved, and after another walk to load the bases, a pop out ended the inning without a run scoring.  Los Caribes also loaded the bases in the 7th inning, but a strikeout ended that inning and left all three on base.  Los Tigres rallied in the top of the 9th, with two singles, including one by Chavez.  Chavez was replaced by a pinch-runner.  Two singles drove in two runs, bringing Los Tigres within one run of Los Caribes.  That was as far as Aragua could get, though, and the game ended with runners on the corners.  Los Caribes will advance to the Caribbean series.

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Ascanio Earns Win Despite Big Hits By Milledge And Gimenez

Checking in on Pirates’ players and friends in the winter league playoffs on Monday…

 Criollos de Caguas  2,  Senadores de San Juan  1 —
Los Criollos broke a 1-1 tie with a run in the bottom of the 9th.  SS Luis Figueroa walked, and moved to second base on a balk.  After an intentional walk, an RBI single let the speedy Figueroa score from second base for the walk-off win.  The win moves Caguas into second place in the round robin tournament, with Los Leones de Ponce in first place, San Juan in third, and Carolina fourth.

Leones de Caracas  8,  Tigres de Aragua  5  —  
Los Tigres de Aragua posted 15 hits, but their 4 errors came back to hurt them.  Caracas scored first, with 2 runs in the top of the 1st, on 3 singles and an error.  Los Tigres responded with 2 runs in the bottom of the inning, on a walk, and 3 singles, including liners up the middle by 1B Hector Gimenez and LF Lastings Milledge.  C Carlos Maldonado gave Los Leones the lead again in the top of the 4th with a solo home run.  Milledge tied the score again in the bottom of the frame with a lead-off single, scoring on a double and a sacrifice fly.  Then Aragua forged ahead to score 2 runs in the 5th, on a lead-off double, an RBI double by Gimenez, and an RBI single by Milledge.  Two singles and an error gave them another run in the 6th, for a 6-3 lead.  Caracas came closer in the 7th inning, when Maldonado led off with a walk.  Another walk and two RBI singles brought in 2 runs, cutting Los Tigres’ lead to 6-5.  The top of the 9th began with a single, a sacrifice bunt, and an RBI double for Los Leones.  A walk and a single added another run, but a fielding error by Milledge in left field allowed the go-ahead
run to score.  Los Tigres could not answer in the bottom of the inning.  1B Raul Chavez singled for Los Tigres, but did not score.  LF Mike Ryan was hitless for Los Leones.  Jose Ascanio pitched the bottom of the 8th for Caracas.  He gave up 2 singles, but left both runners on base.  He was the pitcher of record when the winning runs scored in the top of the 9th, so was credited with the win.  

Los Caribes de Anzoategui beat Los Aguilas de Zulia 5-2 in the other Venezuelan game.  There is still another week to go in this round robin tournament.  Tonight’s results mean that Los Caribes, Los Leones, and Los Tigres are all tied in first place with identical 8-5 records.  

The Dominican League round robin playoffs ended with Los Toros del Este on top.  Los Estrellas de Oriente and Los Gigantes del Cibao tied for second place, and Los Leones del Escogido finished in fourth place.  Los Estrellas will face Los Toros del Este in the championship series.

The Mexican Pacific League was off on Monday.  Los Algodoneros de Guasave are leading Los Tomateros de Culiacan 3 games to 2 in the semifinal round of the playoffs.  The winner of this 7-game series will face Los Yaquis de Obregon in the finals.  

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Triple For Gonzalez and Homers For House, Gimenez, and Chavez

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.  

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.  

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Milledge and Gimenez Spark Los Tigres; Julio Returns To Pirates

The Pirates finished up a chilly mini-camp in Bradenton, and now there is just a month until pitchers and catchers report for spring training.

A few notes:
Wil Ledezma, who went to the Blue Jays last week (off waivers),  was outrighted to the Blue Jays’ minor league system.
Last year’s Curve manager, Matt Walbeck, has found a job in the Braves’ organization, managing at the A level.  

RHP Jorge Julio has been signed to a minor league contract, but has not been invited to the major league camp for spring training.  The Venezuelan native was first signed by the Expos in 1996.  He reached as high as the A+ level in the Expos organization before being traded to the Orioles at the end of 2000.  Julio made his major league debut with the Orioles and pitched in Baltiore from 2001 to 2005.  In early 2006, he was traded to the Mets (as part of a deal for former Pirate Kris Benson), then subsequently traded to the Diamondbacks, to the Marlins, and to the Rockies.  In January 2008, Julio signed with the Cleveland Indians, and appeared in 15 games, all in relief, in the major league level.  He pitched only 17 innings, with a 5.60 ERA, and was released in early June.  He was signed by the Braves in the same season, and did well for them at both the AAA level (2.04 ERA in 39 innings in 38 appearances) and at the major league level (0.73 ERA in 12 innings in 12 appearances).  Julio split the 2009 season between three organizations:  The Brewers, the Rays, and the Pirates, right here in Indianapolis.  For the Indy Indians, Julio made just 4 relief appearances, allowing 7 runs on 8 hits in 5 innings.  He also made 19 appearances (22 innings) for a 5.96 ERA for the AAA Durham Bulls, and 15 appearances (17 innings) for a 7.79 ERA for the Milwaukee Brewers.  During that time, his walk rate rose while his strikeout rate plummetted.  Julio pitched for Bridgeport in the independent Atlantic League in 2010, and did well there.  In 55 appearances, he pitched 55 innings and allowed only 7 earned runs on 39 hits, with 57 strikeouts, for a 1.15 ERA.  Julio has also had a strong showing in the Venezuelan Winter League over the past few months, with a 1.88 ERA for Los Caribes de Anzoategui.  In 28.2 innings, he allowed 6 runs on 26 hits and 12 walks, with 22 strikeouts, and a 3-3 record and 6 saves.  The Pirates are hoping that Julio, who will turn 32 in March, will be able to continue this trend in the 2011 season.  Not inviting him to the big league camp seems to indicate that they want to see some proof, most likely at the AAA level.

Just a few winter league games on Thursday night  (Click on “Read More”)

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Win For Uviedo, Appearance For Gonzalez

A few winter league games with Pirates’ players and friends…

Criollos de Caguas  4,  Leones de Ponce  3  —  
Two runs in the 3rd and another 2 runs in the 6th gave Los Criollos the edge.  SS Luis Figueroa singled and scored a run.  3B Ramon Vazquez drove in a run with a ground out.

Senadores de San Juan  5,  Gigantes de Carolina  4  —  A 5-run 6th inning pushed Los Senadores past Los Gigantes.  That inning included a walk, a fielding error, two singles, and back-to-back triples.  Los Gigantes scored a run in the 4th on an error and a single, then scored 3 more runs in the 5th on two doubles and a triple.  Benji Gonzalez entered the game as a pinch-runner for Los Gigantes in the top of the 8th, but was doubled off second base.  He remained in the game at second base for the bottom of the inning.   

Leones del Caracas  5,  Tigres de Aragua  2  —  
Ronald Uviedo earned the win with 5 innings of work, allowing 2 runs on 5 hits and a walk.  Los Tigres’ first run came in the 4th inning on a single, a double by 1B Hector Gimenez, and a sacrifice fly by LF Lastings Milledge.  In the 5th, a pair of singles, including one by C Raul Chavez, plus another sacrifice fly, gave Aragua their second run.  Los Leones scored 2 runs on three singles in the bottom of the 1st.  In the 2nd, a single, a double, and a sacrifice fly brought in a third Caracas run.  Two walks, two singles, a double, and a sacrifice fly gave Los Leones two more runs in the 4th. LF Mike Ryan singled, but the runner from second base was out at the plate, on the throw in from Milledge to Chavez.  

Tomateros de Culiacan  6,  Algodoneros de Guasave  3  —  
Los Tomateros scored a pair of runs in three different innings, beating Guasave, who scored single runs in three different innings.  SS/LF Luis Cruz led off the bottom of the 8th with a single for Los Tomateros, and he scored on a 2-run homer.  DH Yurendell de Caster walked to lead off the 7th for Guasave, and he came around to score that inning’s run on a single, a sacrifice bunt, and a sacrifice fly.  Los Tomateros are leading the 7-game series 2-0.  In the other Mexican League series, Los Caneros de Los Mochis are leading Los Yaquis de Obregon 2 games to none. 

Sydney Blue Sox  4,  Adelaide Bite  3  —  
Bite starter Paul Mildren had some tough innings against the Blue Sox, and he suffered his 6th loss of the season.  A throwing error, and an RBI single gave the Blue Sox their first run in the bottom of the 1st.  Mildren gave up a walk and a pair of doubles, accounting for 2 runs, in the 2nd inning.  He worked around runners on base in the next three innings, including leaving two runners in scoring position after a walk and a double in the 5th.  He got into more trouble in the 6th, opening the inning with a single, a double, and a sacrifice fly, before being relieved.  Overall, Mildren gave up 4 runs (3 earned) on 8 hits and 2 walks, with 5 strikeouts.  Meanwhile, the Bite were scoring a little, but not keeping up.  They picked up one run on an exciting play in the 4th.  1B Todd Gossage drove a liner into right field, and scrambled around for a triple, and when the Blue Sox’ shortstop missed the catch on the throw in from right, Gossage was able to keep running, scoring on the error.  Gossage doubled and came around to score in the 7th inning.  Two singles and a fielding error gave the Bite one more run in the top of the 9th.

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