See also: Coverage on BA’s new Prospect Blog
See also: Caribbean Series Day Four
See also: Caribbean Series Day Three
See also: Caribbean Series Day Two
See also: Caribbean Series Day One
Venezuela knocked off Puerto Rico, 3-1, and the Dominicans handled a resilient Mexico team in the early game to clinch the 2007 Caribbean Series title.
Aguilas have yet to visit the loss column after their 5-3 win over Mexico, and locked up the title with Venezuela’™s win, which dropped Puerto Rico to two games back with one to play.
Carolina will still get a shot at revenge Wednesday, when Dominican righthander Jose Lima takes the mound against Puerto Rico. But that game is essentially for who ties for second place, as Venezuela has a chance to even its record at 3-3 if it beats Mexico on Wednesday.
“I’™m ready for anything, anything that happens,” Lima said before the DR’™s win in the early game. “But whatever happens, our goal is to go through this series undefeated. That’™s what we came here to do.”
VENEZUELA 3, PUERTO RICO 1
Puerto Rico catcher Yadier Molina was one of the few hitters to get in what is the equivalent of batting practice in the Caribbean Series: Hitting soft-toss into a net in the hallway leading from the dugout to the clubhouse.
But the extra work didn’™t pay off in Puerto Rico’™s loss to Venezuela, as Molina couldn’™t deliver in the game’™s most crucial situation.
But that’™s OK . . . he always has that World Series ring to fall back on.
Molina came to the plate after Puerto Rico loaded the bases while trailing 2-0 in the bottom of the eighth. Venezuela manager Buddy Bailey made his third pitching change in the frame, bringing in righthander Francisco Butto (Yankees).
The Cardinals catcher worked the count to 3-2, and fouled off a pair of 84 mph sliders from Butto before popping up to third baseman Oscar Salazar. Butto–who lived off his slider the entire inning–then got Ruben Gotay to hit a ground ball to first baseman Ramon Hernandez, but the ball skipped off the Orioles’™ infielder/catcher’™s glove, and Juan Gonzalez cut Aragua’™s lead in half.
Butto then got pinch hitter Luis Rodriguez to pop up to Ronny Cedeno to end the threat.
“We were just trying to get the ground ball,” Bailey said. “I thought Butto was outstanding . . . he’™s our closer and he did a heck of a job for us tonight.”
Venezuela added a key insurance run in the ninth, when Salazar homered with two out on an 0-2 pitch from reliever Bubbie Buzachero.
“We kept hearing how we didn’™t stand a chance in this series, but this is very disappointing,” Puerto Rico manager Lino Rivera said. “The Dominicans are king, and we’™re not happy with second place. We were hoping to bring Puerto Rico back to the top, but that didn’™t happen. We are all very sad, but you can be sure we’™ll come out and play hard tomorrow regardless of not bringing a title back to Puerto Rico.”
• DOMINICAN REPUBLIC 5, MEXICO 3
In a back and forth game against a Mexican team that has refused to give up despite still being winless in the tournament, the DR ultimately proved to be too much in the end, downing Hermosillo, 5-3.
And it all came down on the shoulders of righthander Pablo Ortega again.
Ortega took the loss in the opener against Puerto Rico, and came into Tuesday’™s game with the score tied 2-2 in the seventh. But after the Dominicans loaded the bases, Ortega walked Nelson Cruz to force in a run. Then, Jose Fernandez–who hit the ball hard all day–hit a sacrifice fly to score Miguel Tejada from third and give the DR a 4-2 lead.
Mexico answered with a run in the top of the eighth, and nearly added more when third baseman Vinny Castilla–playing in his second-to-last game before retiring at the end of the Caribbean Series on Wednesday–hit a deep fly ball to left-center, but Alex Fernandez tracked it down, making a leaping catch at the wall.
“I can’™t even tell you what a pleasure it’™s been having Vinny Castilla on this team,” Mexico manager Lorenzo Bundy said. “He came in here saying, ‘I don’™t care where I hit in the lineup, I just want to help this team win.’ That’™s been his attitude since he walked into the clubhouse.
“We’™re talking about one of the most beloved–if not the most beloved–played in this country’™s history. For him to come here just to be a part of it, it’™s special. I just wish we could have made it more special for him. It’™s been a rough series, but we’™ll still come out again tomorrow like we have every day. We don’™t quit.”
The Dominican Republic was already back at their hotel when Venezuela defeated Puerto Rico to seal their 16th Caribbean Series title and first since 2004.