Archive for the 'Venezuela' Category

Japan Retains Number One World Ranking

Tuesday, March 28th, 2017

Despite the United States first place finish in the World Baseball Classic tournament this month Japan has retained the number one ranking thanks to their third place finish. Over the course of the voting the United States has won four tournaments to one for Japan in tournaments both teams have competed in. Where Japan jumps ahead of the United States is their two championships that the United States chose not to enter.

Below is the top 12 teams and their points accumulated in parenthesis.

1. Japan (5699)
2. United States (5378)
3. South Korea (4789)
4. Taiwan (3901)
5. Cuba (3737)
6. Mexico (2961)
7. Venezuela (2804)
8. Australia (2433)
9. Netherlands (2071)
10. Canada (2020)
11. Puerto Rico (1759)
12. Italy 1708

You can see the complete list by going to World rankings

United States Knocks Out Dominican Republic

Sunday, March 19th, 2017

The United States will be the new kid on the block in the 2017 final four of the World Baseball Classic. In 2013 Japan, Netherlands and Puerto Rico appeared in the final four with the eventual champions the Dominican Republic. The United States eliminated the defending champions and will join the final four party, facing off against two time champions Japan. A Giancarlo Stanton two run homer in the fourth broke a 2-2 tie and propelled the United States to a 6-3 win.

It didn’t start out well for the United States. It almost reminded the sellout 43,002 in attendance of the game against Puerto Rico when six straight hits to begin the game proved fatal to the United States team. An error by the gold glover shortstop Brandon Crawford got the inning started for the Dominicans. Robinson Cano followed with a double to score Manny Machado. A strikeout of Nelson Cruz got past the catcher to put runners on first and third with one out. Carlos Santana singled to make it 2-0 with Cruz advancing to third. It appeared the United States was on the verge of collapse again, digging themselves a big hole to start the game.

Starling Marte grounded a ball to Barandon Crawford at short. Nelson Cruz broke for home. The throw beat Cruz to the plate and the whole complexion of the game seemed to change after that. Adrian Beltre grounded out and the United States got out of the inning trailing only 2-0.

The Dominicans looked like they were going to score again in the second. Gregory Polanco started the inning with a single. Wellington Castillo followed with a double to put runners on second and third with no outs. Danny Duffy bore down, getting Jose Reyes to pop out. Manny Machado flied out to Adam Jones in center, too shallow to score Polanco (read further to read about a longer fly out hit by Machado to Jones). Robinson Cano hit a hard grounder to Brandon Crawford at short, who made the play to get out of the inning with no runs.

The United States bounced back in the third, Giancarlo Stanton getting the inning started with a single. Jonathan Lucroy moved Stanton to third with a single. Ian Kinsler grounded to short, Reyes going for two but falling short with Stanton scoring on the play. With two outs Christian Yelich laced a double into center to score Kinsler and tie the game 2-2.

The fourth was reserved for the Giancarlo Stanton two out two run homer. Brandon Crawford got the inning started with a two out single. That was it for Ervin Santana, replaced by Hector Neris to get the last out of the inning.

The Dominicans failed at another opportunity to score a run in the fifth. A leadoff single by Manny Machado ended the day for Danny Duffy. A one out double by Nelson Cruz to left field put runners on second and third with just one out. Again the Dominicans failed to score with Pat Neshek getting Carlos Santana to pop out and Starling Marte to strike out.

The Dominicans pulled to within one in the seventh after a Robinson Cano solo homer with one out. Read further for the hit that occurred earlier that created the one out.

The United States took advantage of the wildness of Alex Colome in the eighth. Christian Yelich walked and Eric Hosmer was hit by a pitch. Andrew McCutchen made that wildness pay with a big double into center field to score two runs and give the United States a 6-3 lead.

The Dominicans were deflated after that. The United States retired the Dominicans in order in the eighth and ninth innings to get the victory, Sam Dyson and Luke Gregerson doing the honors. Dyson also got the last two outs of the seventh after the Robinson Cano homer off Tyler Clippard.

Adam Jones perhaps made the catch of a lifetime in the seventh inning prior to the Cano homerun. Jones teammate Manny Machado led off the seventh mashing a ball that appeared to be clearly going over the fence. Jones never gave up racing back, jumping high and reaching his glove over the short fence to rob Machado of a homerun and robbing a fan of a souvenir. The fans erupted in cheers after the catch, many staring in disbelief. All Machado could do is tip his cap to Jones for the catch. He has seen him do that many times before while in an Orioles uniform. This time it was in a uniform that stated “USA”. Tyler Clippard could be seen mouthing from his lips “Oh my God”. It certainly defined what these games are all about. A collection of All Stars or semi All Stars making tremendous plays in the game.

Puerto Rico 13 Venezuela 2

In a game that didn’t mean much since Puerto Rico had clinched their final four advancement and Venezuela was eliminated, Puerto Rico thrashed the Venezuelans with 17 hits. Most of the damage was done in the later innings, when Venezuela went to its thin bullpen. Puerto Rico scored in every inning after the fifth, turning a 2-0 game into a rout.

The still unsigned Angel Pagan racked up three hits from the leadoff spot and Mike Aviles strung together four hits. Kennys Vargas closed out the scoring by slugging a two run homer in the ninth. Jose Deleon worked two outs into the third leaving Venezuela scoreless. Puerto Rico turned to what has turned into a very stingy bullpen to close out the game.

The semifinals begin Monday with the Netherlands doing battle with Puerto Rico. Both teams rely on young infielders to lead their teams. For the Netherlands it is Jonathan Schoop, Xander Bogaerts, Jurickson Profar (playing the outfield), Didi Gregorius and Andrelton Simmons. Puerto Rico relies on Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor and Javier Baez.

On Tuesday the two traditional baseball powers Japan and the United States do battle. Both teams have a solid veteran presence, but Japan has some youth in Tetsuto Yamada and Yoshitomo Tsutsugoh who have carried the team offensively.

The fun that has defined the World Baseball Classic will continue for a few more days.

United States Rallies for Victory Against Venezuela

Thursday, March 16th, 2017

Felix Hernandez quieted the United States bats for five innings, allowing just three hits. The United States, down 2-0 began to come alive against the Venezuela bullpen. They scored their first run in the seventh inning after an error by third basemen Roughned Odor put runners on first and second. Odor normally plays second base but with Jose Altuve on the team that position was not available. He had made an error the previous inning. Two fly balls into the outfield scored Eric Hosmer from second, who initially had reached on an infield single on a ball deflected by Odor.

In the eighth inning Venezuela put Yangervis Solarte at third and brought in Hector Rondon to pitch. Adam Jones led off the inning and greeted a Rondon offering deep over the centerfield fence to tie the game at 2-2. Christian Yelich singled and with one out Hosmer sent the first pitch he saw from Rondon over the right centerfield fence for a two run homer. The United States would get two more hits and a walk in the inning to load the bases. Bruce Rondon, no relation to Hector, was called on to get the last out, striking out Ian Kinsler.

Luke Gregerson came on to get the save. He issued a one out walk to Miguel Cabrera but then got Victor Martinez to ground into a double play.

Venezuela scored first in the third inning when Carlos Gonzalez singled and Robinson Chirinos bunted for a single, Drew Smyly throwing the ball away to advance Gonzalez to third. Ender Inciarte hit the sacrifice fly to score Gonzalez from third.

In the seventh Roughned Odor mashed a solo shot with two out to put Venezuela up 2-0. In the bottom inning Odor gave that run back with his error.

The United States would get all three of their hits against Felix Hernandez in the third inning. Jonathan Lucroy, Alex Bregman and Ian Kinsler all singled to load the bases with one out. Adam Jones would ground into a double play to end the inning. Jones would avenge this out with a solo shot in the eighth to tie the game.

Drew Smyly was quite effective, striking out the last six Venezuelan batters he faced. He struck out the side in the fifth inning and was replaced in the sixth after retiring the first two hitters. He struck out eight for the game. A crowd of 16,635 attended the game. Venezuela next battles the Dominican Republic with the loser probably eliminated from advancing to the final four. The United States will battle Puerto Rico, the team that eliminated them from the final four in the 2013 WBC.

Venezuela Rally Advances them to Second Round; Japan Downs Cuba

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

In the seventh inning John Andreoli hit his third homerun of the WBC to give Italy a 2-1 lead over Venezuela. Italy turned to Mike Demark in the ninth to pick up the save. The first batter he had to face was Miguel Cabrera. Miguel took his second pitch deep for his first homerun of the WBC to tie the game 2-2.

Venezuela would rally for two more runs in the ninth. Victor Martinez followed the Miggy homerun with a walk. Yangervis Solarte pinch ran for Victor. Rougned Odor hit a ball to deep center that Venezuela claimed was a homerun. The umpires looked at the replay and confirmed the original call that the ball did not travel over the fence. Solarte scored the go ahead run but Odor stopped at first.

Italy went with Frailyn Floran after DeMark failed to retire a batter. Carlos Gonzalez ripped a single to left to advance Odor to third. Gonzalez was thrown out at second trying to stretch the hit into a double. Alcides Escobar laid down a squeeze bunt to score Odor to up the score to 4-2.

Francisco Rodriguez came on to pitch for Venezuela. He gave up a leadoff homerun to Alex Liddi to pull Italy to within one. Rodriguez was able to retire the last three batters to secure the victory.

Anthony Morris had a stellar start for Italy, no hitting the powerful Venezuelan bats in his five innings of work. He walked one and struck out five. There were only 1,783 at a game that was not part of the original schedule, with Mexico not part of the game.

A controversy erupted when Mexico was informed they would advance to a playoff round if they beat Venezuela by two. That notice was quickly removed. Mexico was upset when they won by two and were informed they were eliminated and Venezuela would play Italy in the play in game.

Japan 8 Cuba 5

Tetsuto Yamada crushed two homeruns from the leadoff spot, driving in three and scoring four to lead Japan to an 8-5 win over Cuba. For Cuba it is their second loss in the second round. To stand a chance at advancing they must beat Netherlands and hope Japan beats Israel to put second place in a three way tie.

Yamada led off the game for Japan with a homerun. Cuba bounced back in the second by scoring two on a Yurisbel Gracial homerun. Yosvani Alarcon would double and advance to third in the inning but Victor Mesa struck out.

Yamada got the third inning started with a double. He scored on a clutch two out single from another young Japanese superstar Yoshitomo Tsutsugoh, who finished the game 3 for 3 with two RBIs.

In the fourth Alfredo Despaigne got the inning started with a single. William Saavedra and Alarcon hit one out back to back singles to load the bases. After Jefferson Delgado struck out Victor Mesa came through with a clutch two out single to score two runs. Alarcon was thrown out at third trying to advance after the throw home.

In the fifth Japan ties the game. Seiji Kobayashi started the inning with a single followed by a walk to Yamada. Cuba replaced Bladimir Banos with Yoennis Yera. A bunt moved the runners over and a ground out by Norichika Aoki pulled Japan to within one. With a runner on third and two outs Tsutsugoh got another clutch hit, a ground ball single into centerfield to tie the game.

In the sixth Cuba recaptured the lead. Yurisbel Gracial doubled, advanced to third on a fly ball and scored when Yosvani Alarcon singled. Japan again tied it in the bottom frame. Nobuhiro Matsuda appeared to strike out for the second out of the inning but the ball skipped past the catcher. Another wild pitch by Yera advanced Matsuda to second. Shogo Akiyama walked bringing on Cuba’s closer Miguel Lahera early in the game. A single by Seiji Kobayashi tied the game. Yamada struck out and Akiyama was thrown out trying to steal third to end the inning.

Japan took control of the game in the eighth after William Saavedra dropped a throw from shortstop Alexander Ayala to get the inning started. A Shogo Akiyama single advanced Matsuda to third. He scored when pinch hitter Seiichi Uchikawa hit a ball deep enough to right field to score Matsuda. Yamada put the icing on the cake with a line drive homerun into centerfield to give Japan an 8-5 lead.

Kazuhisa Makita retired the Cubans in order in the ninth. If Cuba hopes to advance past the second round they need to beat a tough Netherlands team. Japan has already clinched a fourth date for the final four with a game against Israel pending. They are the only country to play in all four final fours. If Israel can win and Cuba beats the Netherlands, Israel can advance to the final four. That could happen with Japan having nothing to play for but the seeding. It appears that even a Japan loss and a Netherlands win would have Israel and Netherlands play a play off game to determine who advances to the final four.

There were 32,717 in attendance to see the second match between Japan and Cuba. That was less than the 44,308 who showed up for the first round match between these two teams.

Netherlands Pounds Israel in WBC; Venezuela and Italy to Meet in Playoffs

Monday, March 13th, 2017

Israel can’t pitch Jason Marquis every night. Yesterday they went with Corey Baker and he failed to get an out in the third, giving up four runs on three hits and two walks in his outing. Netherlands went with Jair Jurrgens. A Nate Freiman homerun in the fourth was the only run he gave up in his six innings of work. For Freiman it was his second homerun of the WBC. The Netherlands scored the first 10 runs in four innings and went on to win 12-2 in a game shortened to eight innings by the ten run rule.

Didi Gregorius blasted a three run homerun in the fourth inning off Danny Burawa. He finished the game with five RBIs and three runs scored. Andrelton Simmons, Wladimir Balentien and Yurendell DeCaster each lashed out three hits. Balentein scored three times to tie with Didi for the most runs scored in the game. Nate Freiman leads all players in runs scored with 7 while Didi and Wladimir are tied for second with many other players at 5.

The Netherlands needs to beat Cuba to advance to the final four. Israel must still face Japan needing a win to have any hopes of advancing to the final four.

Mexico 11 Venezuela 9

Mexico won the ball game but it did not help them advance to the tie breaker, giving up too many runs in the later innings. The tiebreaker to advance to the second round will be a game between Venezuela and Italy. Mexico jumped out to an early 5-0 lead, Esteban Quiroz slugging a three run homer to end the scoring. Brandon Laird also hit a three run homer in the fifth inning to up the Mexican lead to 8-1. If the Mexicans would have held the Venezuelans scoreless they would have advanced to the tie breaker. They did not.

Venezuela battled back for eight runs in three innings to pull to within two. A walk to Ender Inciarte in the ninth put the tying run on first for Venezuela and led to the ejection of Mexican manager Edgar Gonzalez. Robinson Chirinos struck out and Jose Altuve flied out but Venezuela got the playoff date based on a better runs allowed per defensive inning. If Mexico had held Venezuela to a couple less runs they may have advanced to the playoff game.

The last time Italy and Venezuela met Venezuela won in 10 11-10.

Israel Rolls Past Cuba; Venezuela Wins Wild Game

Sunday, March 12th, 2017

Israel proved they are a team to contend with after their 4-1 win over Cuba, keeping them undefeated in WBC play. Jason Marquis went 5.2 innings, allowing just one run in taming the Cuban bats with his assortment of breaking pitches. Cuba scored their only run off him when Alfredo Despaigne lined one of his pitches over the centerfield wall in the second inning to give Cuba an early 1-0 lead.

Israel tied the game in the fourth when Ryan Lavarnway doubled into left field. Despaigne took long enough getting to the ball to allow Ike Davis to score from first. Noelvis Entenza would retire the next hitter, but the Lavarnway double was the first hit he had given up in the game. He left after the fourth inning with three walks, the third one costing him a run.

Israel scored two more in the sixth. Walks again hurt the Cubans. A Ty Kelly single and Nate Freiman walk set the stage for Zach Borenstein, who broke the tie with a single to right field, scoring Kelly. Blake Gailen doubled to increase the score to 3-1. The Israelis managed to load the bases but Livan Moinelo got Scott Burcham to fly out to end the inning.

A lead off walk in the eighth led to the fourth Israeli run. Zach Borenstein advanced to third on a Ryan Lavarnway single. Blake Gailen laid down a bunt to score Borenstein.

Cuba did not really mount much of an offensive threat until the eighth inning. They loaded the bases on a single and two walks, Despaigne walking to load the bases. Josh Zeid came on to pitch and retired William Saavedra on a ground out to end the threat. The Cubans were retired in order in the ninth, Josh Zeid picking up the save.

Venezuela 11 Italy 10

It took 10 innings but Venezuela made up for their disaster of a game against the Puerto Ricans. Jose Altuve stroked a one out single in the tenth and Martin Prado drove him in with a double. For Prado it was his fifth hit of the game. Jose Castillo retired the Italians in order in the tenth to cap the win.

It was not easy. The Venezuelans thought they had the game won after scoring two in the ninth to take a 10-8 lead. Salvador Perez hit a two run homer for what appeared to be a victory.

The pesky Italians who scored five runs in the ninth the previous night to beat Mexico again proved formidable. Rob Segedin reached second on a throwing error by Alcides Escobar. He scored after two ground outs but still Venezuela had a one run lead. An Alex Liddi single and walk to Drew Butera put two runners on. Gavin Cecchini singled to score pinch runner Drew Maggi. Butera was not pinch run for and he tried to score on the hit but was thrown out at home. Myworld wonders where the pinch runner was for Butera. The game went to extra innings.

Italy had taken an early 5-0 lead after four innings. Daniel Descalso had driven in three runs with his two hits. Alex Liddo and Brandon Nimmo blasted solo homeruns in the fourth.

Venezuela stormed back, led by the 5 for 5 night from Martin Prado. He drove in three runs. The Venezuelans tacked on eight runs in the fifth through seventh innings. Italy scored one in the seventh and two in the eighth to send it into the ninth tied 8-8. There were 12,187 in attendance enjoying the slugfest.

Colombia 4 Canada 1

Julio Teheran pitched five innings of two hit ball to lead the Colombians to an upset win over the Canadians. Now all they have to do is beat the Dominicans for an opportunity to advance to the second round, or a Canadian win over the United States team. Canada has shown you can’t use the success of a 2011 roster to fill your 2017 roster if those players have taken off a couple years from playing.

The game did not start out well for Teheran. In the first inning a walk and two singles, the last by Freddie Freeman gave the Canadians an early run. Freedie Freeman was then caught stealing second as Tyler O’Neil struck out on a 3-2 pitch to end the inning. Teheran settled down after that, allowing just one hit over the next four innings.

Colombia scored their first run in the third when Donavan Solano drove in his brother Jhonatan with a single. Donavan was thrown out at second trying to advance a base on the throw home. For the Colombians it was the Solano show on offense.

Colombia added another run in the fifth to take the lead. Tito Polo slapped a two out single to center, stole second and scored on another Donavan Solano single. The Solano brothers struck again in the sixth with Jhonatan taking a walk with the bases loaded to drive in the third run. Jhonatan ended his day in the ninth with a leadoff double. Oscar Mercado pinch ran for him and scored on a Tito Polo bunt single after Scott Mathieson threw the ball away.

Canada could not mount any kind of offense against the under rated Colombian pitching staff. Yohan Pino came in to replace Teheran and tossed three innings of one hit shutout relief. Dayan Diaz gave up two back to back singles after striking out the first two hitters, but ended the inning and the game with a strikeout to secure the victory.

Puerto Rico 9 Mexico 4

In two games Mexico has now given up 9 runs in the ninth inning. Puerto Rico scored four in the top of the ninth to turn a close 5-4 game into a 9-4 rout. Javier Baez had the big hit with a three run homer. Francisco Lindor hit two homeruns for Puerto Rico, a two run homer in the first and a solo shot in the seventh that gave Puerto Rico a 5-1 lead. Mexico bounced back scoring three runs in the bottom half to make the game close.

Jorge Lopez got the start and the win for Puerto Rico allowing just one run on two hits in his 4.1 innings of work. A crowd of over 15,000 showed up to watch Mexico get almost eliminated from any shot of advancing to the second round. They have to beat Venezuela and hope Puerto Rico is fired up enough to beat the Italians to create a three way tie for second. Puerto Rico guaranteed themselves an opportunity to advance, but they must still beat Italy to advance as the first seed.

Major leaguers by Country

Saturday, March 11th, 2017

Baseball America broke out the top countries who have players in the major leagues. The top ten is listed below.

1. United States - 5,043 (67.34%)
2. Dominican Republic - 1,117 (14.92%)
3. Venezuela - 628 (8.39%)
4. Puerto Rico - 163 (2.18%)
5. Canada - 92 (1.23%)
6. Mexico - 91 (1.22%)
7. Cuba - 82 (1.09%)
8. Panama - 52 (0.69%)
9. Colombia - 38 (0.51%)
10. Australia - 29 (0.39%)

If you combined Curacao and Aruba, both colonies of the Netherlands and included them with the players from the Netherlands that count would also be 38, putting the Netherlands in tenth place.

You can go to the International section of Baseball America to see the complete list.

United States Slides Past Colombia; Puerto Rico Routs Venezuela

Saturday, March 11th, 2017

Adam Jones hit a walk off single in the bottom of the tenth inning to give the United States a 3-2 scrapper over Colombia. For Jones it was his second RBI of the game.

The big bats of the United States were contained in the first four innings by Jose Quintana. They were held hitless against Quintana with the only baserunner a Paul Goldschmidt walk to lead off the second. He was quickly erased when Buster Posey grounded into a double play. On the United States side Chris Archer was perfect for 12 innings to tame the Colombian bats.

When the United States went with Mychal Givens to pitch the fifth the Colombians struck, doing it all after the first two hitters struck out. Jesus Valdez, Adrian Sanchez and Mauricio Ramos hit back to back to back doubles to put the United States in a deep hole.

The sixth inning did not look promising for the United States after the first two hitters struck out. A single by Brandon Crawford and the mandatory pitch count ended the day for Quintana to the relief of the United States bats. William Cuevas replaced Quintana and gave up a single to Ian Kinsler. Adam Jones drove in his first run with a double to left. Nolan Arenado struck out but the ball skipped past the catcher allowing Ian Kinsler to score from third with the tying run.

The bats went quiet again for both teams. Nate Jones made things exciting by walking two Colombian hitters in the top of the eighth. Pat Neshek bailed him out by getting Donavan Solano to line into a double play. Tito Polo strayed too far off first on the liner and Arenado doubled him off. In the bottom half of the inning the United States put runners on first and third with one out but Adam Jones struck out and Nolan Arenado lined out to end the threat.

In the top of the ninth two two out singles by Jorge Alfaro and Jhonaton Solano put runners on first and third with two outs. Jesus Valdez struck out swinging to end the threat. Greg Nappo came on for Colombia and retired the United States team in order in the ninth.

In the tenth Nappo was not so sharp. He walked Christian Yelich and Brandon Crawford after retiring the first batter. Ian Kinsler grounded out to second but Yelich and Crawford advanced a base. That brought up Adam Jones who struck out in his last at bat with a runner on third. Nolan Arenado was hanging out on deck. The Colombians pitched to Jones and he lined a single to center to give the United States a 3-2 win.

The next game for the United States will be against the Dominicans. There were 22,580 at the park to see the United States victory. It could be a donnybrook tonight. Myworld is expecting a sell out.

Puerto Rico 11 Venezuela 0

It was an embarrassment to the Venezuelans. Maybe the players were protesting their government and decided not to show up. Seth Lugo went 5.1 innings allowing just one hit. The lineup of Jose Altuve, Martin Prado, Miguel Cabrera and Carlos Gonzalez did not get their first runner on until Miguel Cabrera hit a two out single in the fourth. How that many bats can remain silent for that long a time against Seth Lugo is a mystery. The game only went seven, mercifully ending for the slaughter rule. Myworld remembers when the United States lost by the slaughter rule and it wasn’t pretty watching them trudge off the field like a beaten boxer.

Puerto Rico was also hitless against the Venezuelan ace Felix Hernandez for the first two innings. Eddie Rosario changed that, leading off the third with a triple. He scored on a T.J. Rivera sacrifice fly. The Puerto Ricans would not end their assault on Felix there. Reymond Fuentes singled and Francisco Lindor walked. Carlos Correa reached on a fielding error by Martin Prado to load the bases. A walk to Carlos Beltran forced in a run and drove Felix from the game. Gregory Infante came on to pitch, retiring Yadier Molina on a fly out to end the inning.

That is the way it stayed until the sixth. Venezuela brought some of their fans to life after Miguel Cabrera was intentionally walked to load the bases with two outs. Carlos Gonzalez could not take advantage of his opportunity, swinging and missing for strike three.

In the bottom half Carlos Correa struck quickly with a lead off homer. Carlos Beltran walked and Yadier Molina went deep. Three batters in and it was 5-0. The rout was on.

The Puerto Ricans put the game away in the seventh, scoring most of their runs after two were out. Eddie Rosario stroked the fourth consecutive hit for the Puerto Ricans with a two run double to make it 9-0. T.J. Rivera followed, invoking the slaughter rule with his two run homer to make it 11-0. The Venezuelans had to walk off the field knowing the Puerto Ricans gave them a bruising beat down.

A crowd of 14,806 came to watch the game, a very good turn out since the local team from Mexico was not playing.

Venezuela - 2017 WBC Review

Friday, March 3rd, 2017

This is the last of my reviews of the countries in the 2017 WBC.

Overview - Despite the political turmoil that exists in Venezuela the population will always love their baseball. The Houston Astros opened the door to the talent in this South American country and now all teams are taking advantage. It is now just a little more difficult to safely travel into Venezuela to identify this talent. When you look at this roster there are some major league All Stars.

Venezuela has a history in baseball. In the beginning of the World Cups from 1941 to 1945, when they were played every year Venezuela won three gold medals while Cuba only won two. That dominance has waned over the years with their best finishes silver medals in 1951 and 1953. Their last medal was a bronze medal they won in 1973.

The early years also saw them do well in the Pan Am games winning the event in 1959 and taking the bronze in 1955. As the years have passed their success has been limited there as well. Their last medal was in 1975 when they won the bronze.

Medals in the Olympics have been absent. Qualifying has been the big challenge with baseball powers Cuba, United States and Canada fighting for what was only two spots for their hemisphere. Despite all the talent in the country Venezuela has failed to qualify for one baseball Olympics.

The World Baseball Classic is a little different. As a baseball power they were invited to the invite. In the three events this has resulted in only one medal, a bronze in the 2009 games. In 2006 they advanced to the second round finishing second to the Dominican Republic. That put them in the death pool where they had to battle Cuba, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. With losses to Cuba and the Dominican Republic they were eliminated from advancing.

The 2009 World Baseball Classic saw them advance past the first round, beating an Italian team twice and splitting with the United States to finish first in the bracket. They advanced to the final four with three wins over Netherlands, Puerto Rico and the United States. In the semifinals South Korea routed them 10-2 in what would become an All Asian final that Japan would win.

The 2013 WBC was a big disappointment for Venezuela, failing to advance past the first round. Losses to the eventual gold and silver medalists Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico in pool eliminated them from competition.

Venezuela qualified for the Premier 12 tournament as a result of their top 12 finish in the international baseball rankings. Venezuela was not a good team without a roster of major leaguers, or players outside 40 man rosters and they failed to qualify past the first round, finishing 2-3.

With all the turmoil in the country Venezuela could improve the moral with a good WBC showing. They have a roster that can certainly go deep in the playoffs.

Current International Ranking - Venezuela is currently ranked seventh but that may be an under assessment with all the major league players on the roster. Puerto Rico is ranked 12th but they finished second in this event in 2013. This year they also have more talent on their roster than that 2013 team. Mexico, the defending Series del Caribe champions are slotted one ahead of Venezuela at sixth and Italy is ranked 11th.

Roster

Pitchers - Jose Alvarado, Jose Alvarez (DPP), Omar Bencomo, Silvino Bracho, Jose Castillo (DPP), Jhoulys Chacin, Jeanmar Gomez, Deolis Guerra, Felix Hernandez, Will Ledezma, Martin Perez, Yusmeiro Petit, Francisco Rodriguez, Bruce Rondon, Robert Suarez

Designated Pitcher Pool - Leonel Campos, Gregory Infante, Arcenio Leon, Jhondaniel Medina, Franklin Morales, Edubray Ramos, Eduardo Rodriguez, Hector Rondon

Catchers - Robinson Chirinos, Salvador Perez

Infielders - Jose Altuve, Miguel Cabrera, Alcides Escobar, Freddy Galvis, Victor Martinez, Hernan Perez, Martin Prado, Yangervis Solarte

Outfielders - Carlos Gonzalez, Odubel Herrera, Ender Inciarte

Strengths - This will be a team that can score runs. They have one of the best offensive catchers in baseball in Salvador Perez. The infielders have some sticks in MVP candidates Jose Altuve and Miguel Cabrera and a glove at shortstop in Alcides Escobar or Freddy Galvis. The outfield lacks depth with only three players listed but they are all potential All stars. Carlos Gonzalez will provide the power while Odubel Herrera and Ender Inciarte will bring the speed and defense. If they need a fourth outfielder Venezuela can call upon Martin Prado for left field or super utility man Hernan Perez. They could have an ace in Felix Hernandez, but he pitched poorly last year and will have to show that this was an aberration.

Weakness - Outside of Felix Hernandez and he is a question mark, the rotation does not overwhelm you. The team is missing a quality second starter after Hernandez so they may move quickly to a deep bullpen. The pen has a lot of arms but lacks a shutdown closer. Francisco Rodriguez can get the job done, but his fastball does not sizzle like it used to. Third base will be shared by Martin Prado and Yangervis Solarte. Solarte can hit for a modest amount of power while Prado is more a gap hitter.

Prospects to Watch - This is a veteran team. The youngest player on the roster is Jose Castillo and myworld does not know a lot about him. His minor league numbers are a bit vanilla but to put a 21 year old pitcher on the roster either says a lot about the available pitching or that the manager likes this kid.

Expected Finish - They should survive their pool, winning their bracket. Whether they can advance past the second round depends on the teams that fall in this bracket.

Puerto Rico to Face Mexico in Series del Caribe Final

Tuesday, February 7th, 2017

Puerto Rico was on the brink of being eliminated from the Series del Caribe playoff round but a win over the Dominican Republic put them in. The saying goes that once you get to the dance anything can happen. Puerto Rico upset Venezuela 9-6 to advance to the finals of the Series del Caribe.

David Vidal, a 27 year old signing by the Marlins from the Independent Atlantic League, hit his third homerun of the tournament and added an RBI single in the fourth to lead the Puerto Rican offense. He is hitting .450 and is tied for first in the Series del Caribe for RBIs with five. Jesmuel Valentin and Yadiel Rivera also drove in two runs for Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico at one time led 8-0 going into the bottom of the fifth but Venezuela would not die. Denis Phipps hit a solo shot in the sixth and Ronny Cedeno and Jose Castillo each drove in two runs to mount a Venezuela comeback. Ricardo Gomez came on in the eighth to get the last out leaving the score 8-6.

Alex Romero, Jesus Flores and Denis Phipps singled to begin the ninth to load the bases with no out. Two strikeouts and a flyout ended the inning with they tying run stranded on second.

In the other semi final Mexico got its revenge from a pool play loss to defeat Cuba 1-0. Miguel Pena shut down Cuba on two hits through five innings and Daniel Rodriguez worked a perfect three innings, strikeout five. Jake Sanchez walked a hitter in the ninth but was able to complete the shutout to send Mexico into the finals.

Lazaro Blanco pitched his second masterful game for Cuba, going seven innings and only allowing a run. That came in the fifth on an Agustin Murillo RBI single. Ronnie Mustilier led off the inning with a walk and Sebastion Valle laid down a bunt single, Mustilier advancing to third after a throwing error by Yunior Paumier. With the bases loaded and one out Jason Bourgeois grounded into a double play to keep the score at 1-0.

The best opportunity for Cuba to score was in the first inning when they collected a walk, single and double. But Victor Mesa Jr was picked off and Yunior Paumier and Alexander Ayala were stranded at second and third when the big bats of Alfredo Despaigne and William Saavedra grounded out. Cuba did not get another base runner until the ninth inning when Victor Mesa Jr. walked with one out.

There were 19,177 to attend the two games.