Cheering for the Pirates’ players and friends in the winter league playoff games on Saturday night…
Tigres de Aragua 5, Leones de Caracas 2 — The Big Cats had to have a one-game playoff because they finished tied for second place in the round robin tournament. Former Pirate farmhand Ronald Uviedo made the start for Los Leones, and while he made it through the first inning, Los Tigres got to him in the next three innings. DH Hector Gimenez blasted a solo homer in the 2nd inning. A walk, a sacrifice bunt by CF Jorge Cortes, and two RBI’s on a double and a single gave Aragua another 2 runs in the 3rd inning. LF Lastings Milledge started the 4th inning rally with a walk, moved to second on a ground out, and to third on a wild pitch. An RBI single plated Milledge, and sent Uviedo to the showrs. The Caracas reliever gave up a single to Cortes, then another RBI single gave Aragua their final run. Caracas scored their first run on a solo homer by LF Mike Ryan in the 2nd inning. Ryan also singled in the 7th inning, and came around to score from first base on 2B Jose Castillo’s RBI double. Castillo singled in the bottom of the 9th, and C Carlos Maldonado reached base on an error, and was replaced by a pinch-runner. With two outs, Wil Ledezma came on to make the final out, earning a save. Los Tigres will now face Los Caribes in the championship series.
Toros del Este 11, Estrellas de Oriente 2 — Los Toros posted 14 hits as they ran over Los Estrellas, who hurt their own cause with 6 errors. The scoring began with 3 runs in the top of the 1st. SS Pedro Ciriaco began a rally in the 3rd with a lead-off single. He scored on a fielding error and a single, and an RBI ground out brought in another run. A walk, a single, and another error in the 4th made the score 6-0. Los Estrellas got onto the scoreboard with a solo homer in the 6th, and scored again with two singles in the 7th. Los Toros kept going, though, scoring 2 runs in the 7th on yet another error, a walk, and a double. Ciriaco walked in the 8th, and scored on a 3-run homer. Ciriaco singled in the 6th as well. Franquelis Osoria pitched the top of the 9th for Los Estrellas, and worked around his teammates’ 6th error to keep Los Toros from scoring in that inning. Los Toros now lead the championship series 4 games to none, and need one more for the series sweep.
A few winter league games with Pirates’ players and friends…
PUERTO RICAN LEAGUE
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.
MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE
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.
Not many winter league playoff games today, but a few player moves:
LHP Wil Ledezma had been DFA’ed right before Christmas, and yesterday he was claimed off waivers by the Blue Jays.
Both INF Delwyn Young and RHP Brian Bass signed minor league contracts with the Phillies today.
Earlier in the week, RHP Joe Martinez, who had also been DFA’ed by the Pirates shortly before Christmas, was traded to the Blue Jays for cash considerations.
Leones del Caracas 11, Bravos de Margarita 3 — Los Leones posted 14 hits, which was enough to make up for their 3 errors. Three singles and a Bravos’ fielding error gave Los Leones their first 3 runs in the 2nd inning. In the third, the first six Caracas batters reached base — a double, two singles, and three walks (including a walk by LF Mike Ryan) — then a sacrifice fly and another single gave Los Leones 5 runs. A 3-run homer in the 8th capped their scoring. Margarita scored one run in the 6th, with the help of one of those errors. An error by Ryan in left field, plus a walk and two singles (one by C JR House) brought in two more runs in the 9th. Ronald Uviedo earned the win for Caracas, going 6 innings and allowing only the unearned run in the 6th inning, on 3 hits and a walk, with 5 strikeouts.
Caribes de Anzoategui 5, Tigres de Aragua 4 — New Blue Jay Wil Ledezma came into the game for Los Tigres in the 6th inning with one run in and runners on the corners. Ledezma gave up a single, which broke a 4-4 tie, and eventually gave the win to Los Caribes. Ledezma also retired the side in order in the 7th. Los Caribes started the game with 3 runs in the bottom of the 1st, on a single, a double, an error, and a sacrifice fly. Los Tigres scored one run in the 2nd, when 1B Hector Gimenez walked, then scored on an RBI double. Gimenez added a 2-run homer in the 4th, and another homer in the 5th gave Aragua their 4 runs. LF Lastings Milledge singled and stole second base in the 6th, and advanced to third base on another single, but he got no further. C Raul Chavez went 0-for-3 for Los Tigres.
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.
Lots of Pirates and former Pirates pitching in Friday’s winter league action… This is the last week of regular season play for the Dominican and Puerto Rican leagues.
Caribes de Anzoategui 8, Tiburones de La Guaira 5 — (Game 1) A 5-run 6th inning gave Los Caribes the edge in the first game of the double header. Los Caribes started the game with 3 runs in the top of the 1st, on a single, a walk by DH Jose Tabata, and a 3-run homer. The 6th inning began with a double, a hit batter, and a walk to load the bases. Two sacrifice flies, an RBI single, and a sacrifice bunt aided by a throwing error by Los Tiburones’ pitcher added four more runs. Tabata also singled in the inning. La Guaira scored 2 runs in the 4th and rallied for 3 in the bottom of the 7th, but could not catch up.
Tiburones 9, Caribes 2 — (Game 2) Ryan Vogelsong earned his 6th win for Los Tiburones. He allowed 2 runs on 5 hits and a walk over 6 innings. Tabata did not get into the night-cap.
Leones de Caracas 6, Aguilas de Zulia 2 — Another former Pirate pitcher earned the win — Ronald Uviedo also pitched 6 innings and allowed 2 runs. He gave up 8 hits and a walk. Los Leones scored one run in the 1st, two in the 2nd, and 3 in the 5th. C Carlos Maldonado singled twice and walked, and scored one run.
Bravos de Margarita 9, Cardenales de Lara — Both teams put up big innings and posted a total of 12 hits each. Lara had a 5-run 3rd inning, which began with CF Ray Sadler being hit by a pitch. Three singles and a throwing error brought in 2 runs, a sacrifice fly plated a third run, and a 2-run homer made it 5 runs. Three consecutive doubles, including one by Sadler, plus a sacrifice fly gave Los Cardenales 3 runs in the 4th. Los Bravos began their scoring with a run in the 2nd, then 3 runs in the 3rd on three singles, an error, and a wild pitch. They added 4 more in the next inning, on three singles and three walks. After the bottom of the 4th, the score was tied at 8-8. Los Bravos scored what would turn out to be the winning run in the top of the 5th, on a walk, a double, and an RBI ground out. Romulo Sanchez pitched to three batters and got three outs in the top of the 9th for Los Cardenales. Anthony Claggett took the mound for Los Bravos in the bottom of the 6th, with two on and one out. He got two outs to end the inning, then pitched the next two innings, allowing only one walk, no hits, with three strikeouts. Ronald Belisario earned his 14th save with a scoreless 9th inning for Los Bravos.
Tigres de Aragua 7, Navegantes del Magallanes 5 — New Pirate Fernando Nieve made the start for Los Navegantes and pitched 4.2 innings, allowing 4 runs on 7 hits and 3 walks. A double and an RBI single by CF Jorge Cortes gave Los Tigres their first run in the 2nd inning. Nieve gave up a 2-run homer to 1B Hector Gimenez in the 3rd inning. Gimenez got to him again in the 5th, with an RBI single that followed a lead-off double. Los Tigres scored 3 more runs after Nieve departed. Cortes walked to lead off the 6th, then scored on a bunt and an RBI single. Two runs scored in the 7th. A double, Gimenez’s third hit of the game, a wild pitch, and LF Lasting Milledge’s sacrifice fly plated the runs. Los Navegantes also scored one run in the 2nd inning, when LF Mike Ryan led off with a walk, moved to second on a wild pitch, and scored on a throwing error. Magallanes scored 3 runs in the 5th, on a pair of singles, a double, and a fielding error by Milledge. Reliever Wil Ledezma took the mound in relief for Aragua after those three runs had scored, and he worked around another error to get two outs and prevent further runs from scoring.