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.
Catching up with a few days’ worth of winter league playoff results:
PUERTO RICAN LEAGUE
Criollos de Caguas 7, Leones de Ponce 5 — Los Criollos won the Puerto Rican League championship with a win in Game 7 of the series. Los Leones got onto the scoreboard first, scratching out a run in the top of the 1st. Los Criollos took a 4-1 lead in the 3rd, with an RBI double and a 3-run homer. Ponce answered with their own 3-run homer in the top of the 4th, tying the game. Each team scored one run in the 5th. Ponce loaded the bases with a walk and two singles, then had their run forced in with a walk. Los Criollos scored when SS Luis Figueroa led off with a single, raced to third on another single, and scored on a sacrifice fly. After two quiet innings, Los Criollos rallied again in the bottom of the 8th. A single and a fielding error put two runners on base, and a fly out and a stolen base moved both runners into scoring position. A line drive into right field for a single drove in the go-ahead run and an insurance run.
MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE
Algodoneros de Guasave 5, Yaquis de Obregon 4 — Los Yaquis took the early lead with a 2-run homer in the 2nd and a solo homer in the 3rd. They scored a 4th run in the 5th inning. Guasave got their offense going in the 5th inning with 2 runs, then tied the score with a pair of solo homers, including one by 1B Yurendell de Caster in the 8th. De Caster also singled in the game. In the top of the 9th, Gusave scored the winning run on a throwing error by the Obregon shortstop. That tied the series at 3 games each, and forced a seventh game.
Yaquis de Obregon 5, Algodoneros de Guasave 2 — A 4-run 4th inning pushed Los Yaquis over Guasave. A lead-off homer, plus 3 more runs and a 2-RBI single drove in those 4 runs. Both of Guasave’s runs came on solo homers by Marshal McDougall. The win gave the championship to Obregon.
Ten weeks until Opening Day for the minor league season…. just in case anyone besides me is counting.
Three playoff games on Wednesday evening, plus the Australians begin their playoffs early on Thursday morning. I’ll be away from the computer for a couple of days, but we’ll catch up after that.
PUERTO RICAN LEAGUE
Criollos de Caguas 7, Leones de Ponce 2 — Los Criollos forced a seventh game with a win over Los Leones. Caguas broke a 1-1 tie with 2 runs in the top of the 4th, on a hit batter and a pair of RBI doubles. That 3-1 score lasted until the top of the 9th, when JR Rodriguez took the mound in relief for Ponce. Rodriguez had an uncharacteristically tough night, giving up a single and a walk, and then having a batter reaches on a fielding error to load the bases. Then Caguas’ 3B Rey Navarro smashed a grand slam to seal Los Leones’ fate. Ponce added one more run with a single, a walk, and a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 9th. The final game of the series will be played on Friday night.
Tigres de Aragua 8, Caribes de Anzoategui 4 — Los Tigres won their first game of the championship series tonight, with both LF Lastings Milledge and 1B Hector Gimenez contributing an RBI. The game began in a shaky way for Los Tigres, as the first three Caribes’ batters in the top of the first all walked, then a run scored on a sacrifice fly. A solo home run began the top of the 2nd for Los Caribes, and a single and a double added another run. Los Tigres got going in the bottom of the 2nd with a double and a fielding error, then an RBI double by Milledge and a sacrifice fly by Gimenez. Aragua tied the score at 3-3 in the bottom of the 5th with two walks, including one by CF Jorge Cortes, and an RBI single. Los Caribes went ahead with a solo homer in the top of the 6th, but Los Tigres tied it again in the bottom of the frame with three singles, one by Gimenez. Aragua took a definitive lead in the 7th with a 3-run homer, then added an insurance run in the 8th with a walk, a hit batter, and an RBI single. Wil Ledezma came out to pitch the top of the 8th for Aragua. He walked the first batter he faced, then got a strikeout, then another walk, and was removed. Another reliever came on to strike out the next two batters to end the inning.
Just two winter league playoff games tonight, since the Dominican League is done and the Puerto Rican League has a night off. That 7-game series is tied at 2 games each (Ponce and Caguas).
In other news, former Pirate Andy LaRoche signed a minor league deal with the Oakland A’s.
Caribes de Anzoategui 8, Tigres de Aragua 7 — Los Caribes took a 2-game lead in the championship series with tonight’s win over Los Tigres. Los Tigres began this game almost like last night’s, with a solo homer in the top of the 1st. Los Caribes came back with a 2-RBI double and an RBI single in the bottom of the inning, for a 3-1 lead. Aragua began the top of the 2nd with three consecutive walks, including to DH Hector Gimenez and LF Lastings Milledge. A throwing error on a pickoff attempt (trying to pick Milledge off first) allowed a run to score. Then Los Tigres took a 5-3 lead in the 3rd. A walk, a double, and a fielder’s choice brought in one run. A single loaded the bases, then a single by Gimenez and a walk by Milledge both drove in a run. But Los Caribes regained the lead in the 5th. Two singles and a walk loaded the bases. A hit batter forced in a run, then a bases-clearing double added 3 more runs, to give Los Caribes a 7-5 lead. A solo homer gave Los Caribes their final run in the 7th. Los Tigres scored twice more — one in the 7th on a walk, a single, and an RBI ground outs, then a solo homer in the top of the 8th. Wil Ledezma pitched the bottom of the 8th for Los Tigres. He hit the first batter he faced, then turned a bunt back to the mound into a force out at second base. Two strikeouts ended the inning.
MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE
Algodoneros de Guasave 12, Yaquis de Obregon 3 — Guasave picked up an early lead with 3 runs in the 2nd inning, on three singles and an error. They added to that lead with a run in the 4th and a solo homer in the 5th. Then they put the game out of reach with a 6-run 7th inning, which featured a lead-off triple, two RBI singles, a double, and a 3-run homer by 1B Yurendell de Caster. De Caster also drove in a run in the 8th with an RBI ground out. Obregon scratched out a run in the 6th and had a 2-run homer in the 8th, as they managed only 4 hits in the game. Each team committed 2 errors. Los Yaquis lead the 7-game series 2-1.
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.