Panama with the Big Upset in Series del Caribe

The Series del Caribe has considered expanding the tournament to other countries, but one of the concerns is these other countries (Panama, Colombia and Nicaragua) would not be competitive. Panama proved this notion not so true with their 4-2 upset of the Dominican Republic last night, a day after Panama native and Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera threw out the first pitch to open the tournament. The loss dropped the Dominicans to 1-1 while Panama sits atop their division at 1-0.

Panama starter Harold Arauz shutout the Dominican bats for the first five innings, allowing just three hits. The 23 year old Panama native played for Toros del Este in the Dominican League this past winter. He signed a minor league free agent contract with the St. Louis Cardinals for 2019.

Panama scored first in the second inning on a homerun from Padres shortstop prospect Javy Guerra. He scored the second run in the fourth after reaching on a single and scoring on a sacrifice fly hit by Jonathan Galvez.

When Panama took out Arauz the Dominican bats were relieved. In the top of the sixth Severino Gonzalez put two runners on via a walk and an infield single. Edwin Espinal drove them both in with a single to tie the game at 2-2. The Dominicans appeared to have woken from their slumber.

The Panama bullpen, especially the smallish 5′9″ Andy Otero made sure that did not happen. Otero shut down the Dominican bats for two innings. That gave the Panama bats another opportunity to take the lead. A hit by pitch, bunt and wild pitch by Jhan Marinez put a runner on third with just one out. Rodrigo Orozco grounded a single up the middle to break a 2-2 tie. Gerald Chin added another RBI single to put up an insurance run and give Panama a 4-2 lead.

Manny Corpas came on to pitch a perfect ninth inning to complete the upset.

Cuba chose not to play in the port tournament in the Netherlands this July because they stated they felt they could not field a competitive team. For their opener in the Series del Caribe they relied on the seven shutout innings from veteran Lazaro Blanco to defeat Mexico 3-1. For Mexico it was their second loss of the tournament, diminishing any chances they have for appearing in the final.

Cuban veteran Alfredo Despaigne drove in all three runs for Cuba. He had a two run single in the third and an RBI single in the fifth. Despaigne is one of the few Cuban superstars who did not defect to the major leagues. He was a teammate of Yoenis Cespedes in Cuba and considered the better player with more power than Cespedes. His defense in left field is a bit suspect. At 32 years of age he may be too late for the major leagues, though he is now playing in the NPB in Japan.

Mexico rallied in the ninth scraping together three hits to score one run. They had the go ahead run at the plate but Agustin Murillo flied out to right to end the game. Cuban Dariel Alvarez was playing for Mexico.

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