Sunday, January 29, 2017

Criollos de Caguas win LBPRC Championship

From the desk of: Winter Leagues/Puerto Rico

Santurce  5
Caguas     6

Criollos de Caguas defeat los Cangrejeros de Santurce,
five games to three

Puerto Rico crowns new league champion; Santurce's two year run is over, undone by los Criollos de Caguas.  

Los Criollos de Caguas reclaimed their position atop Puerto Rico's LBPRC this past Wednesday with their fifth and final series victory over los Cangrejeros de Santuce.

Upon falling behind 3-2 in the Serie Final against the defending back-to-back champions, Caguas reeled off three straight victories to deny Santurce their bid for a third straight title.  

But by no means did los Cangrejeros go down easily.  Game Eight required 12-innings, with resilient Santurce threatening to shift the series back to San Juan for a decisive Game Nine.

After spotting los Cangrejeros an early run in the first inning, Caguas tied things up in the bottom of the fifth when second baseman Ray Navarro plated center fielder Henry Ramos (lead-off single) from third with a sac-fly.

Santurce promptly responded with a pair of runs in the top of the sixth off Criollos relievers Jose de la Torre and William Oliver (in relief of starter Orlando Roman).

Caguas then seemingly pulled away with a four hit, four run outburst in the bottom half of the frame.

Undeterred, and to the dismay of fanaticos Criollos, Santurce scored runs in the top of the seventh and eighth innings, both charged to reliever Miguel Mejia, forging a 5-5 tie and sending the game into extra-innings.

Through the next four innings, however, Caguas relievers Ricardo Gomez and Joel Pineiro combined to pitch four scoreless innings of no-hit ball, while fanning five.  Cangrejeros batters went 0 for 11 over that span, managing only a walk off Pineiro in the top of the 12th.

Parque Yldefonso Sola Morales

In the bottom half of the frame, Santurce's lone mistake proved costly.  With two outs and Frank del Valle on the mound, Criollos third baseman David Vidal gained second base on outfielder Juan Silva's error in right.  Center fielder Henry Ramos then followed with another base hit to right, scoring Vidal, and clinching a 6-5 victory in front of an overflowing crowd at Parque Yldefonso Sola Morales.

Shortly thereafter, it was party time in the valley ...

This is los Criollos second championship in the last five years under general manager Alex Cora, and their 17th league title in their 80 year history.  They are now one title shy of tying Mayaguez (18) for most in league history.

Alex Cora, an eminently proud native of Caguas, previously played in three straight Serie Final for los Criollos beginning in 2009-10 through 2011-12, and helped lead them to a league championship in 2010-11.  Later in 2011, Alex retired from MLB after completing his 14th season, then continued playing one last season with los Criollos.  He would accept the position of general manager the following season upon the resignation of Frankie Higginbotham.  With Cora at the helm, Caguas went on to win another league title (2012-13) in what became a rematch series over los Indios de Mayaguez.

Next stop for los Criollos de Caguas ... Culiacan, Mexico, for the 2017 Serie del Caribe, commencing Wednesday, February 1st.  This will likewise be general manager Alex Cora's second attempt at capturing a Caribbean title.  Caguas last accomplished the feat back in 1987. 

Since Alex Cora's retirement, his well respected baseball acumen has been long sought after by major league baseball clubs.  However, his main priority these last few years lay in being home and spending summers with his daughter.  But starting with the 2017 season, Alex will finally be back in an MLB dugout near you, having signed on to become the Houston Astros bench coach for this upcoming season.

Prior to the start of the regular season, Alex Cora will also be serving as general manager for Team Puerto Rico in the 2017 World Baseball Classic.

  • Joey Cora, older brother of Alex, likewise won a championship with Caguas in 2000-01 while serving in the same capacity.


1941   1974   1977   1979   1981   1987
2001   2011   2013

1948   1950   1954   1956   1958   1960   1968

1954   1974   1987

Caguas Pitching Subdues Mayaguez in Semi-Finals

In defense of their back-to-back titles, los Cangrejeros de Santurce finished atop this year's regular season standings, nine games ahead of third place Caguas, and two games in front of los Indios de Mayaguez.  As the top seed, Santurce went on to have a predictably easy time eliminating los Gigantes de Carolina in the first round of playoffs, four games to one.  

Los Criollos' first order of business, however, lay in overtaking the second place Indios de Mayaguez, whom were vying for their sixth straight Serie Final appearance.  These two rivals squared off in the league finals for three straight years immediately preceding Santurce's now ended two year run.  And with their 2014 Serie Final loss to Mayaguez still fresh in the minds of fanaticos Criollos, payback was foremost on their minds.

But after posting a sub .500 regular season record, then falling behind 0-2 in the semi-finals against los Indios, the specter of elimination loomed large over Caguas.  That is, until designated hitter Randy Ruiz slugged los Criollos to a Game Three victory with what proved to be a decisive three run home run, and four RBI night.  

The sum of Caguas pitching then proceeded to dominate Mayaguez, limiting los Indios to a pair of runs on just 15 hits over the final three games of the series.

Caguas Bats Close Out Serie Final With a Flourish

Through their first 11 playoff games (six against Mayaguez, and through Game Five against Santurce) los Criollos had batted a sickly .148 (11 for 74) with runners in scoring position.  But Santurce had only outscored Caguas by a slim 9-11 margin to that point.  Los Criollos struggles at the plate nonetheless translated into consecutive loses in games Four and Five, and a 2-3 series disadvantage.  They had additionally failed to win at home in two previous attempts.

All that changed starting with Game Six at Sola Morales, as Caguas defeated los Cangrejeros in a 12-1 rout, going 8 for 16 with runners in scoring position.  They went 3 for 8 in Game Seven en route to a 4-1 victory at Hiram Bithorn, then 3 for 12 during Wednesday's clincher.  All told, Caguas batted .388 (14 for 36) with runners in scoring position, and outscored Santurce by a 22-7 margin over the final three games of the series.

Next stop for los Criollos de Caguas ... Culiacan, Mexico, for the 2017 Serie del Caribe, commencing Wednesday, February 1st.

Criollos de Caguas Retire Ivan Rodriguez #7 in Pre-Game Ceremony

Los Criollos de Caguas honored newly elected Hall of Fame member Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez by retiring his #7 prior to the start of Wednesday's Game Eight at Parque Yldefonso Sola Morales.  He first wore the number for Caguas as an amateur during the 1989-90 season.  Pudge played 23 games for Caguas between 2008 and 2011 (his final years as a pro).

Ivan Rodriguez is the fourth player hailing from Puerto Rico elected to baseball's Hall of Fame, joining Roberto Clemente, Orlando Cepeda, and Roberto Alomar.

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