SERIE del CARIBE
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PUERTO RICO (2-3)
Criollos de Caguas
Aguilas de Mexicali
!Patea Yeguita Patea!
After losing their first three opening round games, los Criollos de Caguas miraculously find themselves within one victory from capturing their fourth ever Caribbean title.
Caguas avenged their opening round loss to los Aguilas de Zulia, and in doing so eliminated Venezuela from this year's Serie del Caribe with a 9-6 victory in Monday's semi-final.
But ... not before putting themselves in harm's way first.
Caguas jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead in the top of the first; added a pair in the third inning; scored one more in the fourth; and still one more run in the top of the fifth inning for a commanding 8-0 lead.
Venezuela finally got on the board with a run in the bottom of the fifth. Puerto Rico promptly added another run for a 9-1 lead, but los Aguilas plated their second run in the bottom of the sixth.
Zulia then put a scare into all Puerto Rico with a four run outburst in the home eighth to close within 6-9 of Caguas.
Los Criollos went down quietly in the top of the ninth.
However, the same could not be said of los Aguilas in the bottom half of the frame. Zulia reeled off three straight singles to load the bases off Criollos closer Ricardo Gomez. With no outs, manager Luis Matos left his reliever in the game to sink or swim. Gomez rewarded his confidence by striking out second baseman Ali Castillo, retiring shortstop Freddie Galvis on a shallow fly to center, then by fanning third baseman Ronny Cedeno to end the game.
Now winners of two straight, los Criollos de Caguas will face los Aguilas de Mexicali for the Serie del Caribe 2017 championship Tuesday evening at Tomateros Stadium, in Culiacan, Mexico.
Cuba mounted their only threat in the top of the first when they put runners on second and third with one out. But their clean-up, five and six hitters stranded them all.
Aguilas third baseman Augustin Murillo's RBI single in the 5th was all Mexico would muster, but all they would need. Their pitching ensured it held up.
Cuban starter Lazaro Blanco was the hard luck loser, throwing 103 pitches in a seven inning effort, in which he allowed just a run on four hits and three walks, with five strikeouts.
In the recent years Cuba has been invited back to participate in the Serie del Caribe, they have quickly developed a spirited rivalry with Mexico. To date, Mexico's lone loss of the tourney came against Cuba, but it was Mexico whom prevailed in the semis. It was also Mexico whom eliminated the (then) defending champion Cubans in last year's tourney.
Mexico enters the final game against Puerto Rico with a tourney best 4-1 record.
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Even the Serie Final does not come without its controversies. Loud whispers are meant to be heard, aren't they? People with microphones are murmuring about only the best teams should face off for the Caribbean championship.
That is obviously a shot at Caguas, who enter Tuesday's title game with just two victories in five tries. Meanwhile, Venezuela and Cuba have been shown the door despite posting 3-2 records respectively.
Nothing but sour grapes gone international, I say ... more typical knee jerk reactions. This is the 59th Serie del Caribe, in operation since 1949 (with two exceptions). Point is, there's nothing wrong with the system. If people would just take things at face value, they'd realize this is what happens when Republico Dominicana ponderously goes 0-4 and tilts the bracket.
- Round Robin
- 1) VEN 3-1
- 2) MEX 3-1
- 3) CUB 3-1
- 4) P.R. 1-3 advanced with win over D.R. on Saturday
- 5) D.R. 0-4 eliminated with loss to P.R. on Saturday
- P.R. def. VEN
- MEX def. CUB
This is all another way of saying ... Criollos happen. Deal with it, and just play the game.