BY CARLOS TORRES
HERMOSILLO, Mexico—The Dominican Republic blew a ninth-inning lead with Rays closer Fernando Rodney on the mound, but Ricardo Nanita covered for the unexpected blown save.
Nanita's walk-off single in the bottom of the 11th led DR champion Escogido to a 6-5 victory against host Mexico's Obregon.
It was the second heartbreaking loss in a row for Yaquis, who are now 1-2; Escogido remains the lone undefeated team. Venezuela, which defeated Puerto Rico 3-1, is in second place at 2-1 while the Puerto Rican team remains winless at 3-0.
The Blue Jays farmhand, who played collegiately at Florida International, came to the plate with the bases full. Julio Lugo had singled with one out, then went first-to-third on Jose Ramirez's third hit of the game. An intentional walk to Jordany Valdespin loaded the bases for Hanley Ramirez, who grounded into a 5-2 foreplay for the second out. Nanita became the unlikely hero when he lined a 2-2 pitch for a single to right field, bringing Ramirez with the winning run. The 20-year-old Ramirez (Indians) went 3-for-5 on the night out of the leadoff spot.
The game was no picnic for Escogido. The Leones took the led by a two-run homer in the bottom of second by major league veteran Miguel Tejada—his 14th in Caribbean Series play, tying the all-time record. But the Yaquis always had a response and led 4-2 into the bottom of the fifth when the Leones regained the lead. Dodgers infielder Hanley Ramirez doubled on a line to center field, to cap a three-run rally.
Mexico tied the game on the top of the ninth when veteran big leaguer Alfredo Amezaga scored in a passed ball by Francisco Pena (Mets), clearly exasperating a struggling Rodney. The Rays reliever gave up three hits and a walk while blowing the save, but he didn't get much help from Pena.
The Yaquis used eight pitchers; Orioles righty Luis Ayala took the loss after giving up three hits, two walks the winning run in 2.2 innings while striking out two. Veteran lefthander Nelson Payano, who pitched in the Mexican League for Tabasco last season, pitched a scoreless inning and got the win as the ninth pitcher for the Leones.
Venezuela 3, Puerto Rico 1
Ex-big leager Ken Ray struck out nine in six innings and ex-big leaguer Jose Castillo hit a two-run homer as Venezuela's Magallanes defeated Puerto Rico's Caguas, putting Venezuela in position to face the Dominican Republic for the championship. Venezuela plays the Dominican Monday at 1 p.m. Mountain Time, while host Mexico tries to get back into contention against Puerto Rico in the following game, scheduled for 5 p.m.
Ray gave up one run on six hits and no walks. Jean Toledo and Gabriel Alfaro got four outs while working in and out of trouble before Victor Moreno closed out the Venezuelan victory, striking out four in 1.2 innings of work. The Magallanes offense all came on homers by Castillo, who broke a 1-1 tie with a center field homer in the top of the sixth, and Braves farmhand Jose Yepez, who hit a solo shot in the second.
Andy Gonzalez (White Sox) and Ramon Castro (Dodgers) went 2-for-4 apiece to pace Puerto Rico. Both singled in the fourth when Puerto Rico scored its lone run, Gonzalez coming home on Johnny Monnell's single. Zack Segovia (Tigers) got the loss after tossing 5.2 innings, giving up four hits and three runs while striking out five.