Venezuela rolls over Mexico at home

Venezuela rolls over Mexico at home

VALENCIA, Venezuela -- With host Venezuela engaging Mexico, the 2006 Caribbean Series got off to a rousing start Thursday night. It was equal parts Super Bowl halftime show and World Cup soccer match at Estadio Jose Bernardo Perez.

A salsa group rocked in the middle of the infield, surrounded by sequined dancers, as fireworks exploded beyond the outfield walls -- temporarily silencing an energetic Mexican band.

Colorful banners swayed in the stands as locals tried to drown out the blaring Mexican instruments by serenading the visitors with chants and songs.

All this commotion, and Ramon Hernandez and Alexander Cabrera hadn't even begun the real fireworks display.

Cabrera, Caracas' designated basher, got the assault started with his two-run blast in the fourth. Hernandez capped a huge night with a three-run homer in the ninth, completing a rare cycle in a 17-1 pounding of a dazed Mazatlan crew.

"Yeah, I finally got one," Hernandez said of the cycle, which came in six at-bats. "I came close with the Padres last year [missing by a triple in Oakland]. I'm very content. It's a great feeling to be playing for your country in this event. I really enjoy the Caribbean Series, especially playing at home.

"It's a great start for us, but it's another game mañana."

Cabrera, who tied a Japanese league record with 55 homers in 2002 for the Seibu Lions, got it started when he cleaned up on a Pablo Ortega pitch, driving it over the left-field wall for a two-run blast in the fourth.

As the stadium erupted, the inspired Caracas club was on its way to a 21-hit romp, riding the right arm of Geremi Gonzalez and the smoking-hot bats of Hernandez, Cabrera, Luis Rodriguez and Alex Gonzalez.

The fearsome foursome combined for 14 hits -- four each by Hernandez and Gonzalez -- along with eight runs scored and 14 RBIs.

Hernandez, the former Padre who will grace the Orioles this season, left no doubt with his tremendous three-run homer in the ninth after narrowly missing the center-field seats in his previous at-bat.

Playing first, Hernandez followed Cabrera's blast in the fourth with a scorching triple to right, beating the relay with a head-first slide that showed the true meaning of this Series to the players.

Hernandez scored on a single by Venezuela League batting champion Rodriguez of the Minnesota Twins, but Ortega pitched out of a bases-loaded predicament, striking out Henry Blanco and Alejandro Machado.

Geremi Gonzalez, a 30-year-old right-hander signed by the Mets after he spent last season in Boston, was in midseason form, striking out seven while giving up three hits and two walks in seven innings.

Gonzalez worked out of a two-on jam following Miguel Ojeda's double in the fourth, retiring Juan Carlos Canizalez on a sharp grounder to third.

Cabrera, who batted .262 with five homers in 31 games as an Arizona Diamondback in 2000, drove in a third run by tapping a single to right in the fifth. This delivered Marco Scutaro, who'd singled and advanced on a fly ball.

Mazatlan broke through in the sixth when Oscar Robles doubled, advanced on Geremi Gonzalez's errant pickoff throw and scored on Mario Valenzuela's infield out.

Caracas busted it open in the seventh with four hits and a walk, all with two outs. Rodriguez, after singles by Cabrera and Hernandez, smoked a two-run double to deep center, later scoring on Alex Gonzalez's third hit, a single to left against reliever Jose Cobos.

Hernandez nearly launched a three-run homer in the eighth against lefty Julio Cesar Jimenez, settling for a two-run double when the ball bounced off the top of the wall.

Run-scoring singles by Rafael Angel Alvarez and Michael Sandoval preceded Hernandez's shot. Rodriguez's RBI double gave him three hits and four RBIs.

Mexico will try to kick-start its offense on Friday against the Dominican Republic, while Venezuela moves to Maracay on Friday night to face Puerto Rico.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.