Tag Archive | "Puerto Rico"

2017 World Baseball Classic Pool C & D Preview

Yesterday we took a look at Pools A & B for the 2017 World Baseball Classic and how each team has fared in the past. Today we will take a look at Pools C & D and look at how each team got here and how they have fared in the first three installments of the WBC.

Pool C

Canada is back for its fourth time in the WBC, yet they have surprisingly never made it out of Round 1. They came really close in the first tournament after finishing pool play 2-1 with a victory over the United States losing out on a tiebreaker to the US.

The Dominican Republic is back to defend its title from 2013. After starting off with a spot in the semifinal in the initial WBC, 2009 was a disappointing tournament as they did not make it out of Round 1. However, it was quite the bounce back as the Dominican ran through the 2013 tourney undefeated to take the title.

Colombia is making its first appearance in the WBC after defeating Panama in a qualifier last year to advance. Colombia failed to qualify in 2013 losing to Panama and Brazil in the qualifier. They got a little revenge this go around keeping Panama from advancing. They are one of two teams making their first appearance.

The United States is making its fourth appearance in the WBC. A fourth place finish in 2009 is the best the USA has done so far. The no. 2 World Ranked team has failed to make it out of Round 2 two of the three times, but they look to change that this year. There has been a lot of debate on players playing or not playing, and I look forward to more of that discussion later this year when the final team is announced.

Pool D

Mexico is back again for fourth time, but this time they had to come through a qualifier to pick up their spot. Twice Mexico has made Round 2, but not since 2009. They absolutely rolled through the qualifier outscoring their opponents 25-2. Look for them to once again advance to Round 2 where anything can happen.

Italy is back after a great run in 2013. This is their fourth appearance, but they are still looking for their first medal. Italy defeated both Mexico and Canada to advance in 2013. Their path this time goes through three Latin American teams, but I like their chances.

Venezuela is back for the fourth straight time. In 2009, they finished third defeating the USA in the semifinal. However, after that great run in ’09 they did not advance out of Round 1 in 2013 losing to both the Dominican and Puerto Rico. This might be the most wide open pool.

Puerto Rico is back again after a strong 2013 WBC finishing second to the Dominican. Each time they have made it to at least Round 2, and they stand poised to make another run at that as well. This will be another interesting roster to see once it is finalized.

There are at least three teams in each pool that stand a strong chance to advance to Round 2 which makes this tournament very exciting. I am looking forward to some upsets and surprise teams, but we will get into more of that once the rosters are announced.

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Caribbean Series: Mexico and Cuba Advance to Final

The final of the 2015 Caribbean Series is set and the team that went 4-0 in the round robin didn’t make it, but the team that went 1-3 did.

Mexico was the first team to punch their ticket to the final with a 5-4 win over the Dominican Republic. It was a close game with the Dominican having the tying run at third base with just one out in the bottom of the ninth, but they were unable to tie it up.

Mexico jumped out to a 4-0 lead after scoring three runs in the second and adding one more in the third. With a throwing error by Dominican third baseman Hector Gomez, Mexico would score three unearned runs in the second. An inning later Mexico would get one more after Joey Meneses (1-for-3) singled with two outs. He moved to second on a wild pitch and then scored on a Russell Branyan (1-for-2) RBI single.

After adding a fifth unanswered run, the Dominican Republic finally fought back and fight back they did. In the sixth inning the Dominican finally got on the board with a pair of runs to make it 5-2. In a turn of fate, Hector Gomez reached on a throwing error with two outs allowing Yefri Perez (1-for-2) to score the first run. Gomez wound up at third after the error and would score one hitter later on a Elian Herrera (1-for-4) RBI single.

The Dominican would add a single run in the eighth and ninth but come up short as Mexico avenged their 3-2 loss on Thursday to advance to the finals on Sunday. Terance Marin picked up the win tossing six innings allowing just two unearned runs. Jay Jackson picked up the save.

Full Box Score

In perhaps the biggest surprise of the tournament, previously undefeated Venezuela fell to Cuba. Venezuela jumped out to a 4-0 lead with a run in the third and three runs in the fourth. A couple of walks and a RBI single from Ehire Adrianza (1-for-5) to take a 1-0 lead. With three more in the fourth it looked like Venezuela would stay undefeated.

Then the sixth inning came. Cuba would get three runs to get itself back in the game. Yulieski Gourriel (2-for-5) singled followed by a single from Alfredo Despaigne (1-for-5). Two batters later Frederich Cepeda (4-for-5) tripled in both Gourriel and Despaigne and would score himself on a throwing error making it 4-3.

Cuba would explode for five more runs in the seventh inning. Cepeda was there once again with the big hit. He would clear the bases driving in three with a one out double.

Norge Ruiz picked up the win with 4.1 innings of relief. He allowed five hits and no runs. Amalio Diaz took the loss going just a third of an inning in relief.

The win puts Cuba in the final against Mexico at 6:30 pm on Sunday.

Full Box Score

2015 Caribbean Series Schedule

Monday February 2nd
12:05 pm Cuba 1, Mexico 2
6:30 pm Puerto Rico 2 Venezuela 5

Tuesday February 3rd
12:05 pm Cuba 1, Dominican Republic 6
6:30 pm Mexico 3, Puerto Rico 2

Wednesday February 4th
12:05 pm Dominican Republic 5, Venezuela 6
6:30 pm Puerto Rico 2, Cuba 3

Thursday February 5th
12:05 pm Venezuela 6, Cuba 2
6:30 pm Mexico 2, Dominican Republic 3

Friday February 6th
12:05 pm Mexico 2, Venezuela 4
6:30 pm Puerto Rico 3, Dominican Republic 2

Saturday February 7th
12:05 pm Mexico 5, Dominican Republic 4
6:30 pm Cuba 8, Venezuela 4

Sunday February 8th
6:30 pm Cuba vs. Mexico

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Caribbean Series: Puerto Picks Up Walk Off Win; Semifinals Set

The round robin portion of the 2015 Caribbean Series is finished and the semifinals start tomorrow. In the last day of round robin games, Venezuela finished off Mexico 4-2 to finish with a perfect 4-0 record. They will have the #1 seed in the semifinals and play Cuba on Saturday.

The game was a good one. Mexico took a quick 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning. Rico Noel (1-for-3) led off the game with a single to center field, then stole second. Then with one out, Eric Farris (2-for-3) singled to drive in Neol and put Mexico up quickly.

That was all Mexico would get off Venezuela starter Junior Guerra who tossed five innings. Guerra allowed only three hits while striking out seven. However once Guerra was pulled Mexico struck again. Once again Farris was in the middle of things. Farris led off the sixth inning with a single and soon Mexico had the bases loaded with no outs. Carlos Silva, who didn’t get an out, was pulled in favor of Jean Toledo. Toledo quickly gave up a sacrifice fly to make it 2-0 Mexico. But Toledo settled down and got a double play ground ball to limit the damage.

Venezuela quickly struck back to tie the game at 2-2. Orlando Arcia singled to start off the bottom half of the inning and would come around a batter later on a Alexi Amarista (1-for-3) RBI double. Two batters later Felix Perez (1-for-3) doubled in Amarista to tie the game.

The game would stay tied until the bottom of the eighth when Venezuela would again plate two runs. This time the big blow came with two outs on a two-run home run by Oswaldo Arcia (1-for-3). The Arcia home run came off of Mexico reliever Manny Barreda who took the loss. Amalio Diaz picked up the win with 0.2 innings of relief work. Hassan Pena finished off the game picking up the save with a scoreless ninth.

Full Box Score

In the final game of the round robin, host Puerto Rico finally got on the board with a walk-off win over Dominican Republic. It was a back-and-forth game with Puerto Rico jumping out on top early with a run in the bottom of the third inning on an Enrique Hernandez (1-for-4) RBI single.

The Dominican Republic came back to tie the game in the top of the fifth on a solo home run by Maikel Franco (2-for-4). Franco would drive in both of the Dominican’s runs in the game.

The tie was not long lived though as Puerto Rico came right back in the bottom half of the inning to take a 2-1 lead on a Reymond Fuentes (1-for-4) RBI single. Luis Figueroa (2-for-3) led off the inning with a single and was sacrificed to second before Fuentes gave them the lead.

The game would stay 2-1 until the top of the ninth when the Dominican came back once again to tie the game. After the first two batters struck out, Elian Herrera (1-for-3) doubled, advanced to third on a balk, and scored on a Franco RBI single.

Some excitement for the hometown team came in the bottom of the ninth. With one out, A.J. Jiminez walked and was pinch run for by “Ozzie” Osvaldo Martinez. Then on a 0-2 count, Daniel Ortiz (1-for-4) tripled to left field scoring Martinez from first giving Puerto Rico a walk-off win in front of the home crowd.

Tony Pena Jr. took the loss giving up the run in the bottom of the ninth. Fernando Cabrera gave up the tying run in the top of the ninth blowing the save, but earned the win courtesy of Ortiz’s RBI triple.

Full Box Score

2015 Caribbean Series Schedule

Monday February 2nd
12:05 pm Cuba 1, Mexico 2
6:30 pm Puerto Rico 2 Venezuela 5

Tuesday February 3rd
12:05 pm Cuba 1, Dominican Republic 6
6:30 pm Mexico 3, Puerto Rico 2

Wednesday February 4th
12:05 pm Dominican Republic 5, Venezuela 6
6:30 pm Puerto Rico 2, Cuba 3

Thursday February 5th
12:05 pm Venezuela 6, Cuba 2
6:30 pm Mexico 2, Dominican Republic 3

Friday February 6th
12:05 pm Mexico 2, Venezuela 4
6:30 pm Puerto Rico 3, Dominican Republic 2

Saturday February 7th
12:05 pm Mexico vs. Dominican Republic
6:30 pm Cuba vs. Venezuela

Sunday February 8th
6:30 pm TBD

2015 Caribbean Series Standings:

1. Venezuela 4-0
2. Dominican Republic 2-2
3. Mexico 2-2
4. Cuba 1-3
5. Puerto Rico 1-3

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Caribbean Series: Dominican Republic with Walks Off Win, Helps Cuba Advance

There is just one day left in the 2015 Caribbean Series first round. Venezuela is on to the next round after starting off 3-0. Venezuela kicked off day four of the tournament with a 6-2 win over Cuba. Cuba was aided by a later win in the day from the Dominican Republic helping them to advance and sending host Puerto Rico home.

Venezuela used a four run third inning to put the game out of reach and a strong outing from Cesar Valdez. Valdez went seven strong innings giving up two runs on seven hits while striking out eight. Both runs came on solo home runs.

Alexander Malleta (2-for-4) homered in the second inning to put Cuba on the board. Luis Valdes (1-for-4) also homered in the seventh. Yoanni Yera took the loss tossing just 2.1 innings allowing four runs on six hits.

Balbino Fuenmayor (3-for-4) homered and drove in a pair of runs to lead Venezuela’s offensive attack. Gorkys Hernandez (2-for-5) tripled and scored a run from the lead off spot, while Jose Gil (2-for-4) scored twice.

Full Box Score

In Game 2 of the day, the Dominican Republic picked up a 3-2 win over Mexico. With the win, Cuba advanced to the semifinals and Puerto Rico’s run was ended.

Mexico held the lead for almost the entire game. Jumping out to a 1-0 lead in the third, Amilcar Gaxiola pitched five shutout innings. Two more pitchers came in in relief to hold the Dominican Republic scoreless for another two innings. The Dominican did not get on the board until the eighth an inning after Mexico made it 2-0.

Down 2-0, the Dominican loaded the bases with no outs but could only scratch one run across the board. And it came on a wild pitch by Jesus Castillo. They would walk off in the ninth inning on a Elian Herrera (2-for-5) RBI single scoring Leury Garcia (2-for-5).

Josh Lueke picked up the win in relief for the Dominican. While Oscar Villarreal took the loss giving up two runs on three hits in just 0.2 innings.

Full Box Score

2015 Caribbean Series Schedule

Monday February 2nd
12:05 pm Cuba 1, Mexico 2
6:30 pm Puerto Rico 2 Venezuela 5

Tuesday February 3rd
12:05 pm Cuba 1, Dominican Republic 6
6:30 pm Mexico 3, Puerto Rico 2

Wednesday February 4th
12:05 pm Dominican Republic 5, Venezuela 6
6:30 pm Puerto Rico 2, Cuba 3

Thursday February 5th
12:05 pm Venezuela 6, Cuba 2
6:30 pm Mexico 2, Dominican Republic 3

Friday February 6th
12:05 pm Mexico vs. Venezuela
6:30 pm Puerto Rico vs. Dominican Republic

Saturday February 7th
12:05 pm TBD
6:30 pm TBD

Sunday February 8th
6:30 pm TBD

2015 Caribbean Series Standings:

1. Venezuela 3-0
2. Dominican Republic 2-1
3. Mexico 2-1
4. Cuba 1-3
5. Puerto Rico 0-3

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Caribbean Series: Day Two Recap

Day 2 of the 2015 Caribbean Series is in the books with Mexico winning again and Cuba falling into a deep hole by losing its second straight game.

The first game of the day saw the Dominican Republic in its first action of the tournament downing Cuba 6-1. The game was close until the Dominican broke it open in the sixth inning.

The big blow for the Dominican came in the sixth inning when Willy Garcia (AA PIT) hit a two-run home run off of Cuban reliever Jonder Martinez. Garcia would finish the game 3-for-4. Leury Garcia (CHW) chipped in with three hits as well going 3-for-5.

Rafael Perez pitched well for the Dominican going 5.1 scoreless innings allowing just six hits. Five relievers finished off the game holding Cuba to just one run.

Norge Ruiz took the loss for Cuba. Offensively Yulieski Gourriel (NPB Yokohama) had another good game going 2-for-4. Luis La O went 3-for-3 and Dainer Moreir drove in the only run going 2-for-4.

Full Box Score

Game 2 of the day was a good one. A back-and-forth affair with Mexico pulling out the 3-2 win over host Puerto Rico. Mexico took the lead for good in the bottom of the seventh inning just after Enrique Hernandez (MIA) tied up the game with a solo home run in the sixth.

Mexico starter Francisco Campos did not last long going only 1.2 innings giving up four hits and one run before being pulled. Juan Delgadillo picked up the win tossing four innings in relief. He gave up just one run on two hits. Oscar Villarreal picked up the save with a scoreless ninth.

Full Box Score

2015 Caribbean Series Schedule

Monday February 2nd
12:05 pm Cuba 1, Mexico 2
6:30 pm Puerto Rico 2 Venezuela 5

Tuesday February 3rd
12:05 pm Cuba 1, Dominican Republic 6
6:30 pm Mexico 3, Puerto Rico 2

Wednesday February 4th
12:05 pm Dominican Republic vs. Venezuela
6:30 pm Puerto Rico vs. Cuba

Thursday February 5th
12:05 pm Venezuela vs. Cuba
6:30 pm Mexico vs. Dominican Republic

Friday February 6th
12:05 pm Mexico vs. Venezuela
6:30 pm Puerto Rico vs. Dominican Republic

Saturday February 7th
12:05 pm TBD
6:30 pm TBD

Sunday February 8th
6:30 pm TBD

2015 Caribbean Series Standings:

1. Mexico 2-0
2. Venezuela 1-0
3. Dominican Republic 1-0
4. Puerto Rico 0-2
5. Cuba 0-2

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Caribbean Series: Venezuela Downs Puerto Rico in Game Two

The first day of the 2015 Caribbean Series is in the books with Mexico and Venezuela picking up wins. In Game 2, Venezuela downed host Puerto Rico 5-2 behind the strong pitching of Daryl Thompson.

Thompson tossed 6 innings allowing just one run on three hits while striking out five. Thompson spent most of the 2014 season pitching for the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs of the independent Atlantic League.

Giovanni Soto (AA CLE) took the loss for Puerto Rico. The young lefty had a good 2014 season out of the bullpen for AA Akron. The 23-year old native Puerto Rican tossed four runs giving up all five runs.

Offensively Alexi Amarista had a great day at the plate. He tripled in a pair of runs going 2-for-4. Niuman Romero also drove in two runs with a double going 1-for-2.

Full Box Score

Monday February 2nd
12:05 pm Cuba 1, Mexico 2
6:30 pm Puerto Rico 2 Venezuela 5

Tuesday February 3rd
12:05 pm Venezuela vs. Dominican Republic
6:30 pm Mexico vs. Puerto Rico

Wednesday February 4th
12:05 pm Dominican Republic vs. Mexico
6:30 pm Puerto Rico vs. Cuba

Thursday February 5th
12:05 pm Venezuela vs. Mexico
6:30 pm Cuba vs. Dominican Republic

Friday February 6th
12:05 pm Cuba vs. Venezuela
6:30 pm Puerto Rico vs. Dominican Republic

Saturday February 7th
12:05 pm TBD
6:30 pm TBD

Sunday February 8th
6:30 pm TBD

2015 Caribbean Series Standings:

1. Mexico 1-0
2. Venezuela 1-0
3. Dominican Republic
4. Puerto Rico 0-1
5. Cuba 0-1

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Teams Set for 2015 Caribbean Series in San Juan, Puerto Rico

The 2015 Caribbean Series will begin in just a few short days in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The series will be held at Hiram Bithorn Stadium which may be familiar to many of you since the Montreal Expos played part of their home games there in 2003 and 2004 before moving to Washington D.C. It has also hosted many other events including parts of the World Baseball Classic and a regular season series between the New York Mets and Florida Marlins in 2010.

The tournament will follow the format with two phases. The first phase will last from February 2-6 and consist of a single round-robin competition. The standings will then be decided after this round and the fifth placed team will be eliminated. The top four will continue on to play a semifinal and final round the following two days.

The field is set and ready to go. Here are the teams that will be participating in this years Caribbean Series.

Mexico – Tomateros de Culiacan – Culiacan has not been here for eleven years but they return after defeating the Charros de Jalisco in the championship. They are looking for their third Series championship having won in 2002 and 1996.

Dominican Republic – Gigantes del Cibao – This is their first Dominican championship having finished as runner-ups three separate times. They look to bring the title back to the Dominican after a two year absence.

Cuba – Vegueros de Pinar del Rio – The Vegueros won the Cuban National Series 53 last year. The league runs too long for the current champion to participate in the Caribbean Series, so last year’s winner competes. This was their fourth Cuban championship.

Puerto Rico – Cangrejeros de Santurce – The Cangrejeros will host the tournament in their home park after winning their thirteenth championship. They have won five Caribbean Series titles including the last for their country in 2000.

Venezuela – Caribes de Anzoategui – The Caribes swept through the LVBP winning every phase to earn a trip back to the Caribbean Series where they last competed in 2011. They are looking for their first Caribbean Series championship and the first for Venezuela since 2009.

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Cuba Wins 2014 Central American and Caribbean Games

VERACRUZ, Mexico – Cuba, No. 3 in the world, defeated No. 18 Nicaragua 9-3 in the championship of the Central American and Caribbean Games (CACG) to regain its title. It was Cuba’s 15th title in 18 attempts at the CACG.

New reforms in Cuba allowed several players return after playing professionally in Japan. Three national team players, Alfredo Despaigne, Frederich Cepeda and Yulieski Gourriel, returned after the end of the NPB season to play for Cuba and help lead them to the title. The players were given special permission to play in Japan if they returned to the national team after the end of the season in Japan.

Defending CACG champions the Dominican Republic finished off Puerto Rico 8-1 in the bronze medal game.

Mexico got a much needed 5th place which vaults them to 12th in the final international world rankings of the year. This allows them to play in the inaugural Premier 12 Pro Baseball World Championships in 2015. The new tournament will be hosted by Chinese Taipei next November.


1. Cuba
2. Nicaragua
3. Dominican Republic
4. Puerto Rico
5. Mexico
6. Venezuela
7. Panama
8. Guatemala

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Dominican Republic Claims First World Baseball Classic Title

Dominican Republic Claims Second World Title

By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)

The Dominican Republic used its patented blend of pitching, athleticism, and timely hitting to shut out Puerto Rico 3-0 in the 2013 World Baseball Classic championship game. The team did so in a record-setting way, winning all eight of their games to become the first undefeated WBC champs. The world title was the first for the Dominicans since the 1948 World Cup.

The game was almost washed out in the early innings, as rain poured down beginning in the second frame and lasting for over an hour. As it was the final contest of the Classic, tournament officials were eager to get in the game, but until the top of the fourth it looked like it would be a rain-shortened game. The weather became more favourable about halfway through the matchup and no delay was necessary.

Sam Deduno, who has only six career big league victories, dominated on the hill for the victors, never allowing Puerto Rico to stage any kind of threat. Deduno gave up a hit to AngelPagan to start the game and he advanced to second on a sacrifice, but Deduno struck out Carlos Beltran swinging and Yadier Molina went down looking.

Giancarlo Alvarado did not look nearly so sharp for Puerto Rico. Jose Reyes greeted the journeyman right-hander with a booming double into the right centre field alley and was bunted to third by Erick Aybar. RobinsonCanóo who came into the contest hitting .517 with a 1.410 OPS, was intentionally walked to put two runners on.

The move turned out to be a mistake by Puerto Rican manager Edwin Rodriguez, who had managed so superlatively throughout the Classic. Edwin Encarnacion, who had not connected for an extra-base hit in seven games, crushed a double to deep right centre and both runners scored.

Alvarado then threw a wild pitch, but got two consecutive flyouts to escape without further damage. With a 2-0 advantage, however, Deduno and the Dominicans coasted for the remaining nine innings.

Deduno hurled five innings and gave up only two hits and three free passes. Using his wicked hook and a 93-mph/150 kmh fastball with incredible movement, he mowed down five batters and set down seven consecutive batters are the Pagán’s leadoff safety. He finished the WBC with a 0.69 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, and 17 strikeouts in 13 innings.

Alvarado was done after one, and Rodríguez inserted Hiram Burgos, who had thrown 8 1/3 scoreless innings in the tourney. That move turned out to be the right one, as Burgos immediately got to work, needing only 10 pitches to register a scoreless second.

Burgos, a standout Milwaukee Brewers’ prospect, would match Deduno’s zeroes until the fifth. After his fourth strikeout to start the frame, Alejandro de Aza dropped a clinical bunt single down the third base line and beat the throw by a step. Reyes hit a soft groundball to Irving Falu at second base as de Aza motored to second.

Rather than risk losing both outs, Falú did not try to tag de Aza and instead opted to throw out Reyes. With two down, Aybar roped a two-bagger into the right field corner to plate the Dominicans’ third run of the game. The mental mistake almost certainly added to Puerto Rico’s deficit.

Dominican manager Tony Pena removed Deduno after five, entrusting the three-run lead to his dominant bullpen. Octavio Dotel threw a 1-2-3 sixth, and the Dominicans threatened again in the latter half of the frame.

With two down, Nelson Cruz ripped his fourth double of the tournament, tying him with Canó for the lead in that category. Carlos Santana worked his ninth free pass, tops among all players, and Burgos’ night was over.

Rodríguez inserted Jose de la Torre, who once more impressed. The Red Sox minor leaguer got the third out on strikes to keep Puerto Rico close. An inning later, and it was Xavier Cedeno who worked out of a jam after Reyes blasted another ball to the gap in right field, legging out a triple this time. Cedeño got Canó for the third out.

Puerto Rico had a runner on base in the final three innings, but could do nothing against the shutdown Dominican ‘pen. Pedro Strop got out of a two on, no out jam in the seventh with two strikeouts and a popout to end the only real chance for Puerto Rico, and Santiago Casilla struck out one in a scoreless eighth.

Fernando Rodney came on to pitch the ninth and upped his save records by one with an easy final frame. He recorded two strikeouts to earn his seventh save of the WBC and eighth of his career. The formermark may never be broken in the current format, as the Dominicans are only of only two teams (Japan, 2009) to have ever won seven games in one tournament.

The Dominican Republic finished the World Baseball Classic with an 8-0 record, the most wins in a tournament and the only undefeated record. It is now 14-4 in the tournament all-time, which ties South Korea for second-most victories and sets the mark for best winning percentage. The nation should shoot up the International Baseball Federation (IBAF) rankings about five spots from their current No. 13 ranking.

Reyes and Aybar led the team in the final game with two hits apiece as the team accrued only eight, though five went for extra bases. Canó was tabbed the World Baseball Classic MVP after a performance that included a .469 batting average, .514 OBP, and .781 slugging percentage. He led the tournament in four categories, including hits (15) and total bases (25).

Deduno improved to 2-0, while Alvarado dropped to 2-1. Deduno and the bullpen held Puerto Rico to only three hits after surrendering four the night before. Puerto Rico was 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position and left eight on base, striking out 10 times.

Puerto Rico should rise from No. 12 to the ninths spot in the IBAF charts thanks to its 5-4 performance, especially since three of those loses came to the victorious Dominican Republic. Its second-place finish is its best in a global tournament since a silver medal in the 1976 World Cup.

Stay tuned for continued coverage of the 2013 Classic and future editions, including the announcement of the All-World Team, the qualifying rounds for 2017, and much more.

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WBC: Puerto Rico Ousts Two-Time Defending Champ Japan

Ríos, Puerto Rico Shock Defending Champs Japan

By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)

Edwin Rodriguez, manager of the underdog Puerto Rico team, put together a game plan against the two-time defending World Baseball Classic champions Japan and stuck to it, and Alex Rios hit a two-run homer to give Puerto Rico a 3-1 win in the WBC semifinals. The loss by Japan eliminated them from the competition and ensured that there will be a new world champion.

Kenta Maeda, Japan’s star pitcher, did not allow a run in either of his starts in the first or second rounds, but struggled with the feel of his pitches early in the game. Maeda shook the rosin bag after almost every pitch, polishing the ball in hopes of improving his release.

Maeda clearly felt uncomfortable in a rocky first inning, walking Irving Falu and Carlos Beltran with one out to put a runner in scoring position for the heart of the order. He struck out Molina on three pitches, the last a beautiful slider, but could not get Mike Aviles for the third out.

Aviles stroked a base hit to centre field, and Falú turned on the wheels and raced home to give Puerto Rico a 1-0 lead. The RBI-single tied Aviles for second among run producers, one behind David Wright.

That was all in the inning for Puerto Rico, as Maeda settled down with a grounder from Álex Ríos, and journeyman right-hander Mario Santiago took the hill for Rodríguez. Puerto Rico’s skipper had drawn up a strategy that Santiago and five relievers executed perfectly: pitch quickly and avoid letting the Japanese hitters find their rhythm.

Santiago did just that in the first, needing only about 12 seconds in between pitches to deliver the next toss and, as the game wore on, it was clear that the plan was working. As is common in Japan, the Samurai lineup has complicated batting stances which involve multiple moving parts, and Santiago mowed down the first 10 batters he faced.

After the first, Maeda matched Santiago’s zeroes, using a double play to end the second and start the third inning. Maeda was not nearly as efficient as his opponent, though, exiting after the fifth inning having thrown 80 pitches.

Santiago had to leave in the fifth after injuring himself in the previous frame fielding a groundball. José de la Torre entered with Hayato Sakamoto on second and one out, and gave Japan its first rally by walking Sho Nakata. The Boston Red Sox’ prospect recovered, showing off his impressive arsenal by striking out the next two batters swinging.

Atsushi Nohmi got three outs in the sixth and Japan once more sent a runner into scoring position in the bottom half of the inning. With two out, Seiichi Uchikawa tripled to left centre when Angel Pagan misjudged his base hit and let it go by him to the wall.

Southpaw Xavier Cedeno came in to face Japan’s cleanup hitter, Shinnosuke Abe, and struck out the lefty on four pitches. Cedeño used the same approach as Santiago had, firing in pitches before Abe was comfortable in the box.

Puerto Rico took advantage of Japan’s inability to push runners over in the previous two frames in the seventh. Aviles stroked his second hit of the night to right and Ríos took Nohmi’s 1-1 offering deep into the night, watching in disbelief as the longball landed about a dozen rows in the left centre field bleachers.

The upstarts continued to threaten against reliever Tadashi Settsu. With two out, Jesus Feliciano walked and Pagán laced a safety to right centre to put runners on the corners. Toshiya Sugiuchi got Japan out of the jam, but the damage had been done and Puerto Rico had a 3-0 lead.

Cedeño continued to deal in the seventh, ending the frame with his second K, and Puerto Rico was six outs away from the improbable victory.

The Puerto Rican offence, which had struggled for most of the Classic, almost added another insurance run in the eighth, loading the bases with one out on an error, a nine-pitch walk to Aviles, and a single to Ríos, but Tetsuya Yamaguchi got the final two outs to keep Japan’s deficit at three.

Takashi Toritani made use of AT&T Park’s spacious alleys to rip a triple to right centre. Hirokazu Ibata, the MVP of second round play in Tokyo, blooped a single to right to plate Toritani, and Japan finally showed some life. Uchikawa rapped a one-base hit to right with one out to put runners on first and second, and Rodríguez dipped into his pen for J.C. Romero.

Romero, who closed out Puerto Rico’s victory over the United States only two days’ earlier, entered to face Abe. Japan ran into trouble before the at bat was complete, though, as Ibata missed a double steal sign and only Uchikawa took off for second.

Yadier Molina, Puerto Rico’s catcher, ran out almost all the way to second base to tag Uchikawa, and the Samurai now only had one out to plate the runner. Romero would deny Abe the chance to play hero with a ground ball to the far right side for which Rodríguez had Falú positioned perfectly. The second baseman dove into the hole behind first base, snared the ball, and threw with his back to the ground to nail Abe.

Despite two Ks from Yamaguchi in the ninth, Japan could not narrow the gap against Romero and Fernando Cabrera in the latter half of the frame. Puerto Rico mobbed the field to celebrate its victory in its first-ever appearance in the World Baseball Classic semifinals.

Santiago, who pitched last year in Korea, earned the victory, giving up only two hits in 4 1/3 shutout innings, striking out two and failing to issue a base on balls. De la Torre and Cedeño both hurled 1 1/3 scoreless frames, while the run was charged to Randy Fontañez. Romero got three outs and Cabrera the final two, earning his third save of the WBC in the process.

Maeda dropped to 2-1 in the Classic despite surrendering one run on four hits and two free passes in five frames. He struck out three to augment his tournament-leading total to 18, six more than the next closest. Five other pitchers toed the rubber for the losing side.

Ibata and Uchikawa both had two hits for the Samurai, who mustered just six hits and two walks off Puerto Rican pitching. The team struck out eight times, left seven on base, and were 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position. Abe, the most highly regarded hitter in the lineup, was 0-for-4 and left three runners stranded.

Puerto Rico banged out nine hits and earned four free passes in its victory. Aviles reached base three times and had two safeties, joining Ríos and Pagán as the leader in that category. The team struck out only six times against Japan’s vaunted pitching staff.

Japan will have to wait until 2017 to avenge their loss in the semifinals and finishes 5-2 in the 2013 WBC. They are 17-7 in the three editions of the Classic, the most wins by any team. Puerto Rico now has 13 victories in the tournament, fourth most all-time.

Rodríguez and his men will await the results of the other semifinal matchup between the Netherlands and the Dominican Republic and have a day off to set his pitching staff. Puerto Rico will play in its first championship game, with first pitch scheduled for 1 a.m. GMT on Mar. 20.

We will have news and analysis of the final two games of the 2013 World Baseball Classic, so check back for all your coverage.

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WBC: Puerto Rico vs Japan Pitching Match Up

The 2013 World Baseball Classic semifinals are here, and it all kicks off with Game 1 between the two-time defending champion Japan against Puerto Rico. So before the game gets going, let’s take a look at the starting pitchers.

Puerto Rico

Mario Santiago gets the start for Puerto Rico today. Santiago spent 2012 pitching for the SK Wyverns in South Korea where he pitched in 18 games posting a 6-3 record and a 3.40 ERA.

Prior to 2012, Santiago bounced around the minor leagues getting as high as Triple-A with the Kansas City Royals organization in 2011. He is not a strikeout pitcher averaging just 5.8 strikeouts per nine innings over his seven minor league seasons. In 2012, he struck out 49 in 95.1 innings.

In the WBC so far Santiago has made one start. He has pitched 4.1 innings giving up three runs on five hits. He took the loss against Team USA in both teams first game of Round 2.


Getting the start for Japan is easily their best pitcher so far in the WBC, Kenta Maeda. Maeda has started two games winning both. He has pitched 10 innings in those two starts striking out 15 and giving up just two hits.

Maeda had a great year in 2012 for the Hiroshima Carp. He posted a 14-7 record with a 1.53 ERA tossing over 206 innings. He has won 10 or more games the past three seasons in the Nippon Professional Baseball League in Japan.

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World Baseball Classic Finals Preview: Puerto Rico

With the semifinals of the 2013 World Baseball Classic fast approaching, we thought we’d take a look at the contestants one by one.

Puerto Rico

WBC History

Puerto Rico is making its first appearance in the semifinal round of the WBC, but they are no stranger to winning. In each of the first two WBCs, Puerto Rico went undefeated in the first round. However, each time they have fallen short in Round 2. In 2009 after run-ruling the USA 11-1 in the opening game of the first round, Puerto Rico dropped two straight games including a rematch with the USA. They have posted an 8-4 record in the Classic, so they are no stranger to winning.

The Hitters

Despite featuring some valid Major League talent, some of the higher profiled players have struggled a bit. The lineup has only hit one home run so far. Angel Pagan has been great doing everything he can to help out the team with a line of .360/.448/.520. Mike Aviles has been the RBI man leading the team with the only home run. Catcher Yadier Molina has done well  too at .368/.368.400. However, they have gotten no production out of second baseman Irving Falu, outfielder Alex Rios, or first baseman Carlos Rivera. Even Carlos Beltran has really struggled hitting just .192.

The team will have to manufacture runs. Manager Edwin Rodriguez will have to make due with a thin bench. The team is second only to Japan in stolen bases with six, and so far they have done a good job of manufacturing runs when needed.

The Pitching

The only starting pitcher to pitch in the majors is Nelson Figueroa, who had the big win against the USA. Mario Santiago will get the start against Japan on Sunday, and he has been the weakest of the bunch that includes Figueroa, Orlando Roman, and Giancarlo Alvarado.

The bullpen has a mixture of big league and minor league arms that have been doing the job so far. Perhaps one of the most important aspects of the pitching, and sometimes overlooked, is that of Molina behind the plate. He shuts down the running gave of the opposing team and helps the young pitchers with pitch selection.


Puerto Rico has been the underdog all along, and that hasn’t stopped them yet. They will be underdogs again going up against the two-time defending champion Japan in the semifinals. The team doesn’t have a lot of power, but they do have speed. They will look to run any chance they get, and have several players, including Molina, who will steal a base if they are ignored.

The pitching will need to be in top form to get past Japan. Molina will provide the leadership on the field that is needed, and he will help control the running game of Japan.

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WBC: Santana Blasts Dominican Republic Past Puerto Rico; Earns No. 1 Seed

Santana’s Blast Leads Dominicans in Shutout Win

By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)

Carlos Santana broke a scoreless tie in the fifth inning with a monstrous solo home run and the Dominican Republic shut out Puerto Rico, 2-0, to win Pool 2 of the World Baseball Classic. The victors will face the Netherlands in San Francisco and be joined by Puerto Rico, who will take on Japan.

Both teams continued to exhibit the impressive starting pitching that has carried them through the Classic. Wandy Rodriguez toed the rubber for the Dominicans and did not allow Puerto Rico to put multiple runners on base in his six innings. Orlando Román was nearly as strong, giving up just two hits over five frames.

Neither country threatened until the third, when Carlos Rivera led off with a hit for Puerto Rico. Rivera exited with a strained muscle and Irving Falu pinch ran for the burly first baseman. Falú took off for second and stole the bag successfully, but Carlos Santana’s throw went into centre and Puerto Rico had a runner on third.

Rodríguez buckled down against Andy Gonzalez, who hit what turned out to be a game-winning double to defeat the U.S. the night before, and struck him out looking on his signature curveball. Jesus Feliciano was the next batter up, and Rodríguez induced a ground ball to shortstop. Falú was sprinting with the crack of the bat, but Erick Aybar ranged into the hole and threw a perfect strike off balance to home to nail Falú as Santana applied the tag.

With a runner now on first, the Dominican southpaw got Angel Pagan to fly out and the scoreless tie remained.

Román faced his first threat in the bottom of the inning. Santana walked to start things off and moved over on a single by Moises Sierra, who was making his first start of the WBC. Román got a huge strikeout for the first out and then got Jose Reyes to fly out. A grounder by Aybar ended the frame.

Puerto Rico almost capitalised on the plucky hurling of Román in the fourth. Luis Figueroa doubled with no outs, but Rodríguez continued to use his curve effectively, striking out Beltrán, getting the clutch-hitting Mike Avles to fly out, and after the runner advanced on the fly, bearing down on Álex Ríos for another K.

Neither side got another hit until the fifth, when Santana started the inning with his own rally, crushing a changeup well over the right field fence for his second four-bagger of the Classic. The solo shot travelled 427 feet, one of few balls that Marlins Park was not able to hold in the six games played there.

Román finished the frame with ease, but his afternoon was done after five innings. He took the loss despite allowing two hits and one walk, striking out four.

Rodríguez went six frames, finishing under the 80-pitch restriction for the second round. He retired the last nine in-a-row that faced him, whiffing four. He scattered two walks and a pair of hits for his first World Baseball Classic victory.

Efrain Nieves continued Puerto Rico’s strong pitching effort in the sixth and seventh, working around a baserunner each time. Jose Veras and Santiago Casilla matched his zeroes with one inning apiece of their own.

Aybar once more made a big defensive play to get Casilla out of trouble in the eighth. The Dominican reliever walked Martin Maldonaldo to start the frame and gave up a sacrifice Falú. González rocketed a ball at Aybar with one out, and the shortstop gunned won Maldonaldo advancing to third. Casilla put another run on base via a free pass, but finished with a ground ball.

The Dominicans struck against Ñieves in the bottom of the frame. Aybar reached on a one-base hit and moved to third on Robinson Cano’s first hit of the day and Puerto Rico’s manager, Edwin Rodriguez, went to his ‘pen. Randy Fontanez got the second out, but Canó created an extra run for the Dominicans with his baserunning.

With Francisco Pena, a defensive replacement and son of Dominican manager Tony Pena, batting, Canó took off for second. Peña stroked a hard-hit ground ball to the right side and Falú, forgetting there were two outs and racing instinctively to cover, was too close to second to field the ball. Aybar scored on the RBI-single.

Fontañez escaped without giving up another run, but had a scare on the third out, as Nelson Cruz discharged a line drive to the warning track in left centre field, but Eddie Rosario chased the ball down for the third out.

Fernando Rodney came on for the ninth and earned his fifth save of the tournament despite giving up a double to deep left field to his nemesis Aviles. Aviles is 4-for-8 in his big league career against the closer, but Rodney preserved the shutout and entered the record books for his efforts. Rodney, already the record-holder for most saves in a World Baseball Classic, saved his fifth game, setting the career mark in his first WBC appearance.

The Dominicans mustered only six hits and three walks, with Santana the only hitting star. He finished 1-for-1 with two walks. Canó improved his WBC hitting streak to six games. Puerto Rico had only three hits against Rodríguez and the three relievers and was 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

The Dominican Republic became the second team to go undefeated through the first two rounds of the WBC. The last was Korea in the 2006 tournament, though they would lose their next game, 6-0 in the semifinals to eventual champions Japan.

The Dominicans avoided a meeting with Japan with the victory, though they will put their winning streak on the line in the single-elimination semis against the Netherlands on Mar. 19 at 1 a.m. GMT. The Netherlands upset them twice in the last Classic to eliminate them in the first round. Puerto Rico will have to travel to San Francisco without an off day as they face Samurai Japan on Mar. 18 at 1 a.m. GMT.

Stay tuned for coverage of the two semifinal games and the championship match, as well as all your World Baseball Classic news and analysis.

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WBC: Puerto Rico Eliminates USA; Advances to Championship Round

Figueroa Pitches Puerto Rico Past U.S., Into Semifinals

By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)

Puerto Rico scored a run in the first inning and Nelson Figueroa made it stand it up with six scoreless frames, and the team withstood a late rally from the United States to qualify for the World Baseball Classic semifinals. The 4-3 decision eliminated the U.S. from the WBC almost exactly four years to the day after the Americans sent Puerto Rico home in the second Classic.

Angel Pagan showed why he is considered the sparkplug of the Puerto Rican offence with a game-opening single up-the-middle off U.S. starter Ryan Vogelsong. The San Fransisco Giants’ pitcher got two quick outs, but Puerto Rico staged a two-out rally.

With the infield playing toward the middle, Yadier Molina drove a pitch the other way and reached on a single through a big hole on the right side of the infield. Mike Aviles then stroked a ball between first and second to score Pagán from second. The single drove in his eighth run of the tournament, tied for third-best.

Vogelsong denied Alex Riíos a chance to drive home the runners on the corners with a popout, but Puerto Rico had a 1-0 lead.

Nelson Figueroa took the hill in the bottom of the first and worked around an error by Aviles, inducing a double play by Ryan Braun with one out to end the frame. Neither starter allowed a hit in the second.

Puerto Rico had another chance in the third. Pagán worked a free pass to start the inning, by Jesús Feliciano grounded into a double play. The 3-6-1 twin killing would save a run, as Carlos Beltrán ripped his only hit of the ballgame into the right field corner for a double. Yadier Molina popped the next pitch to third to keep the U.S.’ deficit at one.

The fourth and fifth innings were quiet as the two nations received good innings from their hurlers. Vogelsong would leave with two outs in the fifth inning after nearing his pitch limit, and Vinnie Pestano took over with Beltrán on first after a walk.

Pestano gave up a single to Aviles and then loaded the bases on a base on balls to Ríos, hitting only .156 in the Classic. With left-handed hitting Carlos Rivera due up, Greg Maddux, pitching coach for the Americans, visited the mound and left the righty Pestano in the game. Despite Jeremy Affeldt, a southpaw with World Series experience, warming in the pen, Pestano was allowed to pitch to Rivera.

The Mexican leaguer earned a walk on six pitches, scoring a second run for Puerto Rico. Pestano was allowed to remain in the game and, after working an 0-2 count on Andy González, left a slider in the zone. González crushed the pitch into the left field corner for a two-run double, and Puerto Rico’s lead grew to 4-0.

U.S. manager Joe Torre finally yanked his struggling reliever and sent in Affeldt. The lefty got a one-pitch groundball from Irving Falú and the nightmarish inning was finally over.

Figueroa remained on the hill for the sixth. He gave up the second hit of the game for the red, white, and blue, but then struck out Brandon Phillips, who reached in every other plate appearance in the game. Molina finished the inning by throwing a laser to second to erase Jimmy Rollins, who was trying to steal.

Affeldt stayed on for a scoreless seventh, though Pagán reached on a bouncer to the left side and created havoc at first base until Affeldt retired the side. The U.S. would finally score their first run in the bottom of the frame, the longest it had ever taken the team to plate a run in a WBC game.

Joe Mauer stroked a triple into the gap in right centre with one out, and Giancarlo Stanton sent him home with a single to left off reliever Giovanni Soto. He was forced out on a grounder, but Eric Hosmer rapped a single to centre to put two runners on. José de la Torre, who pitched Puerto Rico out of a jam against Italy two days earlier, got Adam Jones to strike out looking for the third out.

Heath Bell kept Puerto Rico off the board in the eighth, and the American offence kept clicking after another de la Torre strikeout of Shane Victorino. Rollins singled to right and Phillips beat out a slow roller to shortstop to put two runners on.

Braun ripped a two-bagger into the left field corner to plate Rollins, and the U.S. had narrowed the score to 4-2. Puerto Rican manager Edwin Rodriguez summoned Xavier Cedeno to face Mauer, but the star catcher worked a six-pitch walk.

Fernando Cabrera was next out of the bullpen for Rodríguez and got the second out from Stanton on an eight-pitch at bat. Cabrera then walked Zobrist on four pitches, forcing in a run and narrowing Puerto Rico’s lead to one.

Rodríguez continued to work the lefty-right matchups and brought in southpaw J.C. Romero to face Hosmer. With right-handers Jonathan Lucroy and J.P. Arencibia on the bench, Torre left in Hosmer, who was 1-for-31 against left-handed relievers in 2012. The pitching substitution worked magic for Puerto Rico as Romero generated an easy tapper to second, and the game moved to the ninth with the score 4-3 in Puerto Rico’s favour.

Craig Kimbrel, who took the loss after a brutal outing the night before, pitched the ninth. The red, white, and blue closer worked around a leadoff hit to hold Puerto Rico scoreless, giving the U.S. hitters one final chance to tie the game.

Romero stayed on to close and looked extremely good. The veteran pounded his sinker low in the zone, mixing in the occasional changeup and slider and got Jones to strike out on six pitches. He turned up the heat on Victorino, catching him looking for a three-pitch strikeout.

Rollins then flew out to Pagán, who waited just long enough for the ball to settle in his glove before jumping in celebration as the Puerto Rican bench mobbed Romero on the mound. The victory was the biggest upset in recent memory for Puerto Rico, ranked No. 12 in the world, in recent memory.

The 2013 World Baseball Classic is over for the second-rated U.S. team, continuing their streak of disappointment in the tournament. Puerto Rico joins a semifinals that does not include the top two teams in the world, though it does feature two-time defending WBC champions and third-ranked Japan, No. 7 Netherlands, the most recent world champion, and a loaded Dominican Republic team.

Rollins and Phillips both had two hits for the losers, who had eight hits and drew three walks. The Americans left seven runners on base. The bottom five in the order was 2-for-22, struck out four times, and left 11 men stranded.

Pagán raised his WBC average to .391 with a 2-for-3 day, scoring once and drawing a walk. Aviles joined him with a brace of hits and the team struck out only twice against U.S. pitching, drawing four walks and collecting nine hits.

Vogelsong was the hard-luck loser, giving up two runs on four hits and two walks, whiffing one in 5 2/3. Figueroa improved to 2-0 in the Classic, lowering his ERA to 1.80 with six scoreless innings. He surrendered only two hits and a base on balls, striking out two. Romero earned his first save of the tourney.

Puerto Rico will have only a few hours to prepare for their final game of the second round. It takes on an undefeated Dominican Republic side to determine the seeding for the semifinals. The contest starts at 6 p.m. GMT on Mar. 16.

Check back for news and analysis of that game and the championship round of the World Baseball Classic.

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WBC: Puerto Rico Rallies Eliminating Italy

Puerto Rico Eliminates Italy, One Win from Semis

By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)

It was a different night but the same story for Italy in the World Baseball Classic. After taking the lead on a big hit, this time by Anthony Rizzo, Italy wasted the efforts of an intrepid starting pitcher and allowed its opponent to come back late against their bullpen. Once more, their experienced closer, Jason Grilli, sat idly in the bullpen as a more experienced opponent chipped away at the lead before taking it for good.

This time it was Puerto Rico who was the beneficiary, as it took advantage of sloppy play by the Italians in the late innings to claim a 4-3 win. In the process, Puerto Rico narrowly escaped elimination and is now one win away from qualifying for the semifinals of the WBC. Italy finished 2-3 in the 2013 Classic.

Both starters were effective in the early innings. Italy sent Alex Maestri, the country’s top Italian-born hurler, to the mound. After a leadoff double to Ángel Pagán, Maestri set down the next nine hitters, five by ground ball, working low in the zone with a tight high-70s/mid-120s curveball and slider combination, mixing in a fastball that hit 90/145 consistently.

Giancarlo Alvarado was nearly as effective for Puerto Rico. Relying heavily on a high-80s/low-140s cut fastball that he located well, the right-hander gave up a hit in the first three innings, but got out of each inning unscathed.

Puerto Rico’s best threat early in the game was the fourth. Irving Falú worked a seven-pitch walk and went to third on a one-out single by Yadier Molina. Maestri threw a wild pitch to move Molina into scoring position, but the righty got Mike Aviles and Álex Ríos on outs to the left side of the infield.

Alvarado started to wear down in the fifth. Anthony Granato stroked a single to right with one out and went to second on catcher interference by Molina. Nick Punto reached on the play. Chris Denorfia had a one-base hit to load the bases, and Alvarado exited the game.

Xavier Cedeño came in with the sole purpose of getting out Anthony Rizzo, the Azzurri’s top hitter, but grooved a fastball that the first baseman ripped to the gap in right centre. All three runners crossed home, and Italy had a 3-0 lead.

José de la Torre, who struck out the side with a runner in scoring position only one night before, came in to face the dangerous combination of Alex Liddi and Chris Colabello, and a ground ball and a strikeout to escape the threat.

Maestri left the hill after getting into a jam in the fifth. Chris Cooper relieved with runners on first and second and one out, and got Pagán and Falú out to preserve Italy’s three-run advantage for another frame.

Hiram Burgos was the new pitcher for Puerto Rico and got three quick outs. Cooper gave up a hit with one out to Yadier Molina in the bottom of the sixth. He advanced to second on an error by Granato at shortstop and, with two down, another miscue by Granato gave Puerto Rico its first run. Cooper finally acquired the third out to keep the score at 3-1.

Neither side threatened in the seventh as Burgos and Cooper turned in strong innings, though Italy nearly struck against Burgos in the eighth. The Milwaukee Brewers’ minor leaguer gave up two hits with two outs, but stopped the rally with a ground ball out.

Cooper would not be so fortunate in the bottom of the inning. He was pulled after walking a slumping Carlos Beltrán, who went to third on a hit by Molina. With Grilli still not warming, Marco Mazzieri, Italy’s manager, elected to bring in veteran change-up specialist Brian Sweeney to face Aviles and Ríos. He got Aviles to erase Molina on a force out, but then allowed a RBI-single to Ríos to make it a one-run game.

Pat Venditte relieved and got the second out at a price, inducing a fly out to centre that score Aviles with the tying run. Italy’s centerfielder, Chris Denorfia, threw the ball home from deep centre, and Ríos went to second on the throw.

Andy González bounced a ball deep into the hole at shortstop and it eluded a diving Liddi, the third baseman. Jack Santora, who had entered as a defensive replacement for Granato, made a nice play to snag the ball, but the long throw to first pulled Rizzo off the bag, and Ríos sprinted from second and score untouched.

Italy’s mental mistakes continued after a hit to Eddie Rosario, as Santora threw to third on a grounder by Pagán. The toss was high and González slid in safely to load the bases on the Azzurri’s third error. Venditte bore down and got Falú for the third out, but all the air had been visibly sucked out Italy’s collective lungs.

Burgos stayed in for the first two outs, both retired by strikeout, though the first was on a 3-2 count to Punto, who thought it was ball four and ran all the way to first before someone told him he had been ruled out. Southpaw J.C. Romero came in to get the left-handed Rizzo. Rizzo walked, but Fernando Cabrera got Liddi to go down swinging for the first out.

Italy out-hit Puerto 9-8, but its three errors were the death blow to its chances of advancing in the bracket. Denorfia had three hits and Rizzo reached base three times, but the team and was 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position and left 10 men stranded. Liddi and Colabello, both of whom had key hits earlier in the Classic, were 0-for-8 with four strikeouts, leaving seven men stranded. Italy struck out 11 times.

Molina had a three-hit day for Puerto Rico, who also left 10 men on base, hitting .067 with runners on second or third. It received strong pitching from Alvarado and Burgos in particular. Puerto Rico’s starter went 4 1/3 innings, scattering five hits and a walk while allowing two earned runs. Alvarado whiffed four.

Burgos, who earned the victory, threw 3 2/3 scoreless frames, striking out four. He allowed three hits and issued two free passes.

Maestri toed the rubber for 4 1/3 shutout innings, striking out three. He surrendered three hits and two walks. Cooper was solid, allowing only a hit and a walk in 2 1/3, notching one K. Sweeney took the loss, giving up Puerto Rico’s final run and getting only one out.

Italy will return for the 2017 World Baseball Classic, while Puerto Rico will take on the loser of the matchup between the Dominican Republic and the United States. That game will take place on Mar. 15 at 7 p.m. EST.

Stay tuned for all the news and reviews of the final six games of the World Baseball Classic.

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WBC: David Wright Leads Team USA to Victory

Captain America Strikes Again in US Win

By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)

David Wright, dubbed ‘Captain America’ after his clutch grand slam against Italy, came through again in the second round of the World Baseball Classic. The U.S. third baseman doubled his WBC-leading RBI total to 10 in a 7-1 victory over Puerto Rico.

The final score was not indicative of how hard a battle this was for the U.S. Four of the runs came in the Americans’ last two times at bat, as Puerto Rican pitching kept them off balance for most of the game.

The U.S. was first to score, plating a run in the opening frame. Ryan Braun walked against Mario Santiago and scored on a double by Joe Mauer, who reached base four times in the game.

Puerto Rico, which scored the fewest runs of any team to make the second round, looked helpless against Gio Gonzalez, making his first appearance in the Classic. The southpaw did not allow more than one baserunner to reach base in any inning, regularly hitting the mid-90s/low-150s with a nasty two-seam fastball and using a nifty curve.

The red, white, and blue gave González an insurance run in the third inning. Brandon Phillips stroked a hit to left to start the frame, and Ryan Braun followed with an infield hit to the hole at shortstop. After a walk to Mauer loaded the bases, Wright drove in his first run on a grounder. The U.S. would leave two on in the inning, but took a 2-0 lead.

Neither team threatened in the fourth, and González finished his outing with a 1-2-3 fifth, striking out two batters. The U.S. fell short of another big inning in the bottom of the frame, but pushed across its third run.

Rollins singled to right and moved over on a sacrifice bunt. Santiago struck out Ryan Braun, but strike three bounced away from catcher Yadier Molina and Braun raced to first. That was all for Santiago, who went 4 1/3 innings. Andres Santiago walked Mauer to load the bases and Wright came through with a RBI single through the right side of the infield. Puerto Rico got the next two outs, but it was now 3-0.

Neither nation added to the scoreboard in the sixth, and Vinnie Pestano followed Jeremy Affeldt’s scoreless sixth with his own in the seventh. The U.S. once more scraped together a run, this time with two outs. Eric Hosmer beat out an infield hit to shortstop and stole second base. Adam Jones laced a single to centre to make it 4-0.

Puerto Rico finally got on the board in the eighth. Pinch hitter Jesus Feliciano was hit to start the frame and moved to third on a double by Eddie Rosario, a 21-year old top Minnesota Twins’ prospect. Feliciano scored on a grounder by Ángel Pagán. David Hernandez prevented Puerto Rico from getting any closer, though.

With the U.S. only now firmly in control, three more insurance runs were tallied in the bottom of the frame. Jimmy Rollins started things off with a single over second base and Braun beat out another ground ball single to the left side of the infield.

Joe Mauer earned his third free pass to load the bases, but Wright once more stepped up, crushing a double to deep centre, the longest ball hit during the game. He was stranded at second, but Craig Kimbrel got three outs in the ninth and the 7-1 score was final.

The irony of Wright’s moniker is that it was cemented in a game which featured two teams from the United States, as Puerto Rico is a territorial dependency. Wright tied Hisayoshi Chono, who hit the mark earlier in the day, and Jose Abreu for most RBI in a game in the 2013 Classic. The mark is still short of Ken Griffey, Jr.’s memorable seven RBI-day in 2006 against South Africa.

Rollins, Braun, and Giancarlo Stanton joined Wright with two hits, with the first hitters scoring twice as well. Puerto Rican pitching kept the U.S. from finding its groove until the eighth inning, as the U.S. stranded 12 runners and hit 3-for-15 with runners in scoring position.

Rosario was the only Puerto Rican with two knocks against the U.S. The team banged out only seven hits and was 0-for-7 with baserunners on second or third.

Mario Santiago took the loss, though he pitched out of two predicaments in his 4 1/3 frames. He gave up three runs on five hits and two walks, striking out three with a 96-mph/154-kmh fastball. Six other pitchers toed the rubber for Puerto Rico, with José de la Torre’s sixth inning the most impressive. The Boston Red Sox minor league struck out Rollins, Phillips, and Braun with two on.

González got his first WBC victory for the U.S. He hurled five shutout innings, allowing just three hits while whiffing five. Five relievers closed out the game.

Italy and Puerto Rico will battle to remain in the World Baseball Classic on Mar. 13 at 7 p.m. EST in Marlins Park. The loser will go home in the double-elimination bracket. The United States will have a day off to prepare for the Dominican Republic on Mar. 14 at 7 p.m. EST. The winner will automatically qualify for the semifinals in San Francisco.

Stay tuned for news and analysis of the rest of the Classic.

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WBC: Puerto Rico vs USA Pitching Match Up

Round 2 kicked off today in Miami for Pool 2. The second game of the day features the USA vs Puerto Rico in should be a very good game. However, the starting pitchers in the game are quite different when it comes to experience. One has only reached the highest minor league level in 2011. While  his opponent was winning 20 games in the big leagues last season.

Puerto Rico

Mario Santiago will get the start for Puerto Rico. He was drafted in the 16th round in 2005 and pitched seven seasons in the minor leagues reaching as high as Triple-A in 2011. However, he was out of organized baseball in 2012 only pitching in the Puerto Rican Winter League where he struggled. In 2012 for Carolina, he went 1-3 in five games with an ERA north of eight.

Santiago pitched in the 2009 WBC going 1-1 with 11 strikeouts and a 0.75 ERA. He has not pitched for Puerto Rico so far in 2013.


The USA will send a 21-game winner from a year ago to the hill, the Washington Nationals Gio Gonzalez. He led the league in wins and finished third in the Cy Young Award voting. He had a great year for the Nationals and looks to continue that in the WBC.

In 2012, he set a Nationals club record for pitching 25 consecutive scoreless innings. He also ranked third in the league with 8.8 strikeouts per 9 innings by a lefty.

Gonzalez has not pitched for the USA in previous WBCs or so far this season. He will be making his debut today.

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WBC: Dominican Republic Wins Pool C

Dominicans Win Pool C in 4-3 Duel with Puerto Rico

By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)

Robinson Cano hit a home run and Dominican Republic skipper Tony Pena pushed all the right buttons in managing his pitching staff, and the Dominicans beat Puerto Rico 4-3 at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan. Neither team had a lead larger than two at any point, and only one inning featured multiple runs scored. Both teams advance to the second round of the World Baseball Classic in Miami, with the Dominicans taking the higher seed.

The visitors took the lead in the first. Erick Aybar reached on an infield single that deflected off Puerto Rican first baseman Martin Maldonaldo. Canó stroked a one-base hit to centre and Edwin Encarnacion plated Aybar with the game’s first run. Orlando Roman would bear down on the next three hitters, getting out of the jam without allowing another run to score.

Neither team would threaten until the bottom of the fourth when Alex Rios rapped a safety off Wandy Rodriguez to lead off the inning. One batter later, Mike Aviles took the first pitch he saw from reliever Lorenzo Barcelo into the left centre field seats to give Puerto Rico a 2-1 lead.

Canó, who was named Most Valuable Player in the pool at the game’s conclusion, equalled Aviles’ feat, ripping a dinger to left centre to start the fifth. The Dominican Republic would not score again in the inning, but the host’s lead was quickly erased.

After a 1-2-3 inning by Barcelo, the Dominicans grabbed the lead. Carlos Santana hit a single down the left field line and moved over on a sacrifice. Alejandro de Aza, who reached base in all three of his plate appearances, struck a double to the wall in centre that nearly gave the visitors a two-run advantage. Santana scampered home on the play to make it 3-2.

Barcelo and Octavio Dotel split the bottom of the sixth, working around a hit and an error. Dotel got a double play to end the frame, and the Dominicans once more set to work.

Edwin Encarnacion was plunked to start the seventh and Miguel Tejada followed him with a long fly ball to left field. Encarnación had to wait at third when the ball bounced over the wall, but Tejada had a ground rule double. Nelson Cruz plated the lead runner with a groundball and an intentional walk to Carlos Santana and a wild pitch put runners on the corners.

Xavier Cedeño, who earned the save in Puerto Rico’s first win, struck out the final batter in the inning to keep the margin at 4-2.

Pena’s relief hurlers would prevent the Puerto Ricans from gaining any momentum on offence. Dotel pitched the seventh with a strikeout and Cedeño got a three-up, three-down inning in the eighth.

Puerto Rico missed drawing even by about five feet in the bottom of the eighth. Ángel Pagán smoked a ball to left centre, turning on the wheels to leg out a triple to start the frame against San Francisco Giants’ teammate Santiago Casilla.

Casilla buckled down against the 2-3-4 hitters for Puerto Rico, striking out Irving Falu on a combination of fastballs and a nasty curveball, which had Falu whiffing on a 3-2 count. Casilla had another six-pitch at bat against Ríos, striking him out looking.

With two outs and Pagán still on third, Carlos Beltran, Puerto Rico’s cleanup hitter, stepped up, and put a charge in the first pitch he saw. The ball sailed to dead centre, but fell to centerfielder Eury Pérez just in front of the wall.

Randy Fontanez gave up two hits to the Dominicans in the ninth, but the visitors held the momentum and the advantage after Pérez’s heartbreaking catch. Peña turned to closer Fernando Rodney for the bottom of the ninth, and the Tampa Bay Rays’ closer got his second save of the Classic with a 1-2-3 final frame.

Canó had his third-straight three-hit game, keeping hit batting average at .600 in the 2013 Classic. Aybar, Encarnación, and Tejada all collected a hitting brace for the victors, who had all four runs scored by different players. The team left 11 men on base and hit .167 with runners in scoring position, but took advantage of its three extra-base hits.

Aviles was the only Puerto Rican with multiple hits or RBIs, notching two of each. With the exception of Aviles’ blow, Dominican pitching kept their Caribbean neighbours from ever getting a rally going, giving up seven hits and one walk, but getting two double plays and seven strikeouts.

Barcelo earned the win for the Dominican Republic and allowed a run on two hits in two frames. Rodríguez had a solid start, scattering four baserunners over 3 1/3 with two strikeouts. Pena’s ‘pen surrendered only one run and four hits in 5 2/3 frames.

Román started for Puerto Rico and was one out shy of four full frames. He gave up five hits, a walk, and a run, whiffing two. José Berrios, only 18, took the loss after coughing up two runs on three hits and a base on balls.

The defeat dropped Puerto Rico to 9-3 in Hiram Bithorn in World Baseball Classic play, making the Dominicans one of three nations to beat them on their home turf. No. 12 Puerto Rico will have to face the United States, ranked second in the world, to start round two. The matchup between the only nation to field two teams in the WBC occurs on Mar. 13 at 1 a.m. GMT. The Dominican Republic, rated No. 13, will contest ninth-ranked Italy on Mar. 12 at 6 p.m. GMT.

Stay tuned for the second round as the Classic has only seven teams remaining. You can find all your news, recaps, and analysis right here for the remainder of the 2013 WBC.

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WBC: Dominican Republic vs Puerto Rico Pitching Match Up

The Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico head into their game today both with perfect 2-0 records. Both teams are already secured a sport in Round 2, but today’s game will determine the seeding going forward. So who will get the start on the hill?

Dominican Republic

Wandy Rodriguez will get the start for the Dominican on Sunday. Rodriguez spent the 2012 season with the Houston Astros and Pittsburgh Pirates compiling a 12-13 mark. He has spent eight seasons in the big leagues compiling a career 4.03 ERA.

This will be his debut for the Dominican Republic in the WBC.

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico will counter with Orlando Roman. The 34-year old right-handed starter spent the 2012 season with the Tokyo Yakult Swallows of the Nippon Professional Baseball League in Japan.

He spent 12 seasons in the minor leagues before moving on to pitch overseas. In 2011, he pitched in the CPBL (Chinese Taipei) for the Brother Elephants winning 16 games and being named the pitcher of the year.

This is his third WBC playing for Puerto Rico. He made one appearance in 2006 pitching 0.2 innings without allowing a run. In 2009, he gave up one hit and struck out two in one inning of work.

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WBC: Puerto Rico vs Venezuela Pitching Match Up

The game between Puerto Rico and Venezuela holds big implications on who will move onto the second round. Venezuela is coming off a disappointing loss to the Dominican Republic and need to win to stay alive. If Puerto Rico can pull out the victory, they would move on with the Dominican (if they hold on vs Spain).

So let’s see who will start on the hill for each team in this critical match up.

Puerto Rico

Veteran right-hander Nelson Figueroa will get the start for Puerto Rico. Figueroa spent the 2012 season in Triple-A but has a lot of MLB experience pitching in parts of nine seasons at the highest level. His last season at the Major League level was 2011 with Houston.

In 2012, he went 12-5 in 25 games including 15 starts. He posted an ERA of 3.89 over 115.2 innings.

He has international experience having pitched in four games for Puerto Rico in the 2009 WBC. He pitched 7.1 innings in 2009 allowing just two hits and striking out six.


Carlos Zambrano gets the nod for Venezuela in this must win game. Zambrano spent the 2012 season with the Miami Marlins going 7-10 with a 4.49 ERA.

Zambrano is a free agent, so he will be looking to impress scouts showing that he can still be an effective pitcher at age 31. He is a former N.L. All-Star and 18-game winner with the Chicago Cubs.

Zambrano pitched for Venezuela in the 2006 WBC. He pitched in two games, including one start, going 6.2 innings picking up a win and posting a 5.40 ERA.

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WBC: Spain vs Puerto Rico Pitching Match Up

Spain is facing Puerto Rico in its first World Baseball Classic game today. So before the game kicks off, let’s get to know the starting pitchers a bit.


Sergio Perez will get the start for Spain in its first game. The right-hander was drafted by the Astros in 2006 out of the University of Tampa. In 2012, he pitched for Triple-A Oklahoma City posting a 4-2 record in 40 games. This was the first season where most of his work came as a reliever.

Internationally Perez has played in the Venezuelan Winter League for the Navegantes de Magallanes and led all pitchers in wins over the last two years.

Puerto Rico

Giancarlo Alvarado will get the nod for Puerto Rico against Spain. For the past three seasons he has spent his time in the Nippon Professional Baseball League in Japan. In 2012, he pitched for the Yokohama Bay Stars.

Alvarado pitched for Puerto Rico in the 2009 WBC. He pitched four innings over two games allowing just one run on one hit.

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Eight Great Latin American Ballplayers

By Ismael Nunez

This month of February is African-American History Month. It’s also Dominican History Month, and in the first week of February every year:  Dominican Republic, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela participated in the Caribbean World Series!

Yet the games are not shown on prime-time and at the same time there are several Latin American ballplayers many USA citizens don’t know much about.  Here are the Magnificent Eight!


Martin Dihigo stood 6’3 and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977. He was the first Latin American Ballplayer who played in the Negro Leagues elected into the Hall. The only ballplayer elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in four countries (Mexico, Cuba, Venezuela, United States).  In Cuba he was called “The Immortal” in other Latin American countries he was called “El Maestro” (The Master). As a pitcher he won over 25o games had a winning percentage over .650. As a hitter he had a batting average of over .300 and won batting  and home-run titles.  Too many, including former Negro League Hall of Famers, consider him the greatest player ever!

Jose Mendez stood only 5’8. In Cuba he was called “El Diamante Negro” (The Black Diamond) yet he had a winning percentage of .747.  When Major League Teams traveled to the island in exhibition games Mendez won most of the time! In one game he defeated Hall of Fame Pitcher Christy Mathewson in 1911.

Cristobal Torriente stood between 5’9 and 5’10 yet weighed 190 pounds. He was called “The Cuban Babe Ruth”, played baseball year-round, and was a star player both in the Negro and Cuban Leagues from 1913 to 1922. His lifetime batting average was .352.

All Three of these Cubans are in Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY

Dominican Republic

Tetelo Vargas has been called “The Father of Dominican Baseball and The Dominican Deer” who was excellent both on defense and offense! Long before there was Manny Ramirez, and Vladimir Guerrero there was Vargas. Playing in the Negro Leagues, Puerto Rican, Dominican, and Mexican Leagues he put together a lifetime batting average of .300.  He also had good speed, and was notable base stealer.

Horacio “Rabbit” Martinez was an outstanding shortstop, and a clutch hitter.

To many he was the greatest shortstop ever to play in the Dominican Republic and one of the top shortstops in the Negro Leagues from the 1930’s and 1940’s. In an article for SABR (Society for American Baseball Research) many would say long before Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith there was Martinez making those plays. He had a rifle of an arm and brilliant speed.

In his Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues, James A. Riley wrote that Martinez was “a good bunter, fast on the bases, and good on either end of the hit-and-run play! Always a hustler!”

Dominican baseball player Manny Mota had this to say about Martinez “Mr. Horacio Martínez was without a doubt one of the greatest players in the history of the Dominican Republic. Besides being a great player, he was like a father to me. I’ve got a great deal of respect and admiration for him.”

Rob Ruck, author, The Tropic of Baseball: Baseball in the Dominican Republic, and co-writer/producer of the film Republic of Baseball stated this, “I think that both Tetelo Vargas and Horacio Martínez merit consideration for the Hall of Fame. Now that the Hall has opened its “Viva Baseball” exhibit about Latinos in baseball, I hope that they might establish a special committee to consider such candidacies, as they did once before, in 2006!

Puerto Rico

Pancho Coimbre & Perucho Cepeda

Long before Puerto Rican great like Roberto Clemente, Orlando Cepeda, Roberto Alomar arrived in the Hall of Fame, you had these two individuals.  Coimbre and Cepeda both stood 5’11 and both were Afro-Puerto Rican as well as outstanding hitters/fielders. Cepeda’s single season batting average of .464 is the highest in Puerto Rican Baseball History. Coimbre’s lifetime batting average of .337 is the second best in Puerto Rican Baseball History.  Both are in the Puerto Rican Baseball Hall of Fame.


The country has had baseball fever long before Fernandomania in 1981, Bobby Avila winning the A.L. batting title in 1954, or the country winning the 2013 Caribbean World Series. Before all of this there was Hector Espino!

He was called the “Babe Ruth of Mexico”  and his  achievements have been compared favorably with many baseball legends who have received baseball’s highest honor.

He won a staggering 18 batting titles(winter/summer leagues) which is six more than the 12 batting crowns Hall of Famer Ty Cobb captured. He also spent 24 years with the Orange Men from 1960-84. Hall of Famers Brooks Robinson (Orioles) and Carl Yastrzemski (Red Sox) are tied with 23 years of service in one uniform.

He became the oldest man to win a batting title in 1983 when he was 43 years-old and hit .316. Ted Williams was 40 when he hit .328 in 1958.

He led Mexico to its first Caribbean World Series win in 1976, and in 1988 was elected to the Mexican Baseball Hall of Fame (Salón de la Fama del Beisbol Profesional de México).

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Caribbean Series Eyes Possible Return to Miami

HERMOSILLO, Mexico – The Caribbean Series could possibly return to Miami in the near future. Caribbean Baseball Confederation president Juan Francisco Puello Herrera has been in talks with the Miami Marlins about the possibility of using their new stadium in Little Havana.

The talks are still early, and the Series might not return to Miami for another four years or so.

The tournament was held at the Orange Bowl, site of the current Miami Marlins Park, in 1990. It was also held at Bobby Maduro Miami Stadium in 1991. The Series was going through hard times during their trips to Miami, and Puello would like to reestablish the events image in the heavily Latin populated area.

Another factor is the possible return of Cuba to the Series. Cuba hasn’t played since 1961, but its return is still a long shot. Puello has stated that Cuba would have to commit to the Series to return. It would not be allowed for just one series. It would have to be on a permanent basis.

The 2014 Caribbean Series will return to Venezuela. The tournament rotates between the four countries participating (Mexico, Venezuala, Puerto Rico, and Dominican Republic).

Next year it will take place in Margarita which is a large island on the northeast coast of the country. It will be played at Estadio Guatamare where the Series debuted in 2010 when the Leones del Escogido of the Dominican Republic took home the title.

The Series will rotate to Puerto Rico in 2015 and the Dominican Republic in 2016.

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Caribbean Series: Luis Mendoza Named MVP of Series

HERMOSILLO, Mexico – The All-Stars of the 2013 Caribbean Series were named prior to Thursday’s Championship Game.

Luis Mendoza, a Kansas City Royals pitcher, was named the Most Valuable Player of the round robin portion of the tournament. Mendoza was part of Mexico’s Yaquis de Obregon team that went on to win the title.

Mendoza made two starts in the tournament pitching 13.1 scoreless innings. He flirted with a no-hitter on Wednesday taking one into the eighth inning when he would pitch 7.1 innings giving up just two hits to earn the win. That win against Puerto Rico put Mexico into the Championship Game against the Leones del Escogido of the Dominican Republic.

The rest of the All-Stars were:

• Manager: Audo Vicente (DR)
• Catcher: Francisco Pena (DR)
• Pitcher: Mendoza
• First base: Donell Linares (DR)
• Second base: Jose Ramirez (DR)
• Third base: Mario Lisson (Venezuela)
• Shortstop: Miguel Tejada (DR)
• Outfielder: Marlon Byrd (Mexico)
• Outfielder: Ricardo Nanita (DR)
• Outfielder: Doug Clark (Mexico)
• Designated hitter: Barbaro Canizares (Puerto Rico)
• Right-handed pitcher: Mendoza
• Left-handed pitcher: Efraim Nieves (Puerto Rico)
• Relief pitcher: David Reyes (Mexico)
• Closer: Saul Rivera (Puerto Rico)

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