CAROLINA, P.R.–The 49th Caribbean Series kicked off in grand style, in a game that sometimes seemed as if it might go on forever. And no one in the raucous flag-waving, samba-dancing crowd seemed to mind.
In the longest game in Caribbean Series history, quality pitching highlighted the heavyweight marathon as the Dominican Republic rallied in the bottom of the 18th inning to topple Venezuela, 4-3–some 6 1/2 hours after the game began.
After the Dominicans tied the score at 2-2 in the bottom of the sixth, the two clubs combined for 11 scoreless innings until the top of the 18th, when Venezuela took a 3-2 lead on an RBI double by Ronnie Cedeno.
But the Dominican Republic battled back against Francisco Butto in the bottom half of the inning, starting when the righthander fielded a chopper by Alberto Castillo and promptly threw the ball away down the right-field line.
Castillo wound up on second and later scored the tying run on an RBI single by Bernie Castro. Butto then got Anderson Hernandez swinging, but Luis Polonia followed on a hit-and-run that put runners on first and third with one out and Miguel Tejada at the plate.
Venezuela manager Buddy Bailey chose to intentionally walk Tejada–who had already gone deep in the fourth–to load the bases for Tony Batista, who also homered in the sixth. Batista hit a fly ball to center field, scoring Castro on the sacrifice, and the partisan Dominican crowd erupted in celebration.
“This is a huge win for us against a great, great team,” Batista said. “We were tired, they were tired . . . they pitched well, we pitched well. It was a great way to start the series for us.”
Even though the Dominican Republic got in the win column, however, the game took a toll on both pitching staffs. A total of 13 pitchers were used during the game, and that doesn’™t bode well for the bullpens.
“It could definitely be a factor down the road for either one of us,” Bailey said. “It’™s so important in a series like this to score some runs and protect your pitching staff. We just couldn’™t score runs and left a lot of runners on base. You can’™t keep doing that if you want to protect your staff and ultimately win.
“We need to get some good outings from our starters from here on out. Maybe we’™ll get lucky and it’™ll rain . . . but unfortunately we play on a turf field so even that’™s not going to help.”
• PUERTO RICO 11, MEXICO 1: Puerto Rico treated the hometown fans to an opening 11-1 victory over Mexico in the second game, pounding out 16 hits in the process. Los Gigantes, who won the Puerto Rican League, held Mexico to just three hits. Puerto Rico DH Juan Gonzalez went 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI, and Alex Cora drove in three.
Things will not get any easier for Mexico, which will have to bounce back from a game that ended after 3 a.m. local time, to play the Dominican Republic Saturday at 3 p.m. Puerto Rico and Venezuela meet in the 7 p.m. matchup.