Not too many Pirates’ players and friends left in the playoff mix, as winter league action winds down:
VENEZUELAN LEAGUE (best of 7)
Tiburones de La Guaira 9, Tigres de Aragua 1
Los Tiburones evened up the championship series again, at 2 games each, taking a big bite out of Los Tigres. Los Tigres managed only 6 hits with one walk. The only hit that made a difference was CF Jorge Cortes’ 8th inning solo homer. Cortes, who is not a huge guy at all, has been very big in this championship series — this is his 4th home run in the playoffs, and his 3rd in the past 3 games. 1B Hector Gimenez singled in the 4th inning for Los Tigres, but was erased in a double play. Los Tiburones scored 2 runs in the 2nd on a 2-RBI double. Another 2-RBI double and a wild pitch gave Los Tiburones 3 runs in the 4th. They added 4 runs in the 6th with an RBI double and a 3-run homer.
DOMINICAN LEAGUE (best of 9)
Aguilas Cibaenas 2, Leones del Escogido 1
Los Aguilas also tied up their championship series, at 3 games each, with an exciting bottom-of-the-9th win. Nelson Figueroa made the start for Los Leones. He pitched 8 innings and allowed one run on 7 hits, no walks, and 4 strikeouts. The lone run came in the 3rd inning, on a lead-off double, a sacrifice bunt, and a sacrifice fly by Pedro Ciriaco. Figueroa scattered the remaining 6 hits, and in his last four innings of work allowed only one hit — a triple by RF Brandon Moss. Los Leones were not giving Figueroa any run support, though. They came close in the 5th, when a walk and a wild pitch put a runner on second base. That runner tried to score on a single up the middle, but was thrown out at the plate. Finally, in the top of the 9th, three consecutive singles, drove in a run for Los Leones, tying the game. Figueroa was relieved to begin the bottom of the 9th, which Moss led off with a single lined into center field. A sacrifice bunt and a fielding error moved Moss to second with his teammate on first, and a second sacrifice bunt moved both runners into scoring position. After an intentional walk and a foul pop, a pinch-hit single drove in Moss with the winning run.
Sydney Blue Sox 8, Adelaide Bite 0 (2nd inning)
This game was suspended with 2 outs in the bottom of the 3rd, presumably to be restarted on Sunday afternoon. The Blue Sox got down to business in the top of the 1st, with 3 runs on a hit batter, two singles, and two doubles. The top of the 2nd began with a walk, then two outs, then a single and another walk to load the bases. That was all for starter Darren Fidge, and Rinku Singh came on in relief. Singh began the Australian season well, but has had more difficulty in the past few weeks, and this game was no different. The first batter he faced blasted a grand slam, and the second batter also homered. Singh also gave up a single before getting a strikeout to end the inning. The Bite have not yet had a hit, but have had a batter walk in each of their at-bats. In the 1st and in the 3rd, those base runners were erased with double plays. 3B Stefan Welch walked in the 2nd, and reached second base on a wild pitch, but got no further. The Blue Sox and the Bite began this game tied at one game each in the best-of-5 series.
The Perth Heat took a 2 games to 1 lead over the Melbourne Aces in their series (also best-of-5) with a 9-4 win. Four runs in the bottom of the 1st gave them a big jump on the Aces, and they added 3 in the 4th and 2 in the 8th.