Puerto Rico evens Caribbean Series record with rout of Cuba in nightcap
By Jesse Sanchez
Mexico's Venados de Mazatlan clinched at least a tie for the top seed in Saturday's Caribbean Series semifinal game with a 6-4 victory over Venezuela's Tigres de Aragua on Wednesday at Estadio Quisqueya.
Shortly afterward, Puerto Rico's Cangrejeros de Santurce evened its tournament record after two games with a convincing 12-1 victory over Cuba's Ciego de Avila.
GAME 1 Mexico 6 Venezuela 4
Venezuela's 2-1 record qualifies it for the semifinals this weekend.
It was Atlanta Braves third baseman Adonis Garcia who drove in Oscar Salazar -- who played in 199 games for the Tigers (2002), Orioles ('09) and Padres (2009-2010) -- with a single in the top of the third to give Venezuela an early 1-0 lead. But Mexico answered with a two-run double by former Major League shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt to give Mazatlan a 2-1 lead in the fourth. Betancourt later scored on a single by Erick Rodriguez to extend the lead to 3-1.
Venezuela cut the lead to 3-2 on a single by Hernan Perez that scored Baltimore's Dariel Alvarez in the sixth. Mexico added two runs in the bottom of the frame and another run in the seventh to seal the victory.
Venezuela will play Cuba on Thursday afternoon, with the Dominican Republic facing Puerto Rico in the nightcap.
Garcia continues to show why he is one of the top players in the entire tournament, and why the Braves are not concerned with his ability to hit big league pitching. On Wednesday, the Cuban infielder racked up three more hits in the losing effort. He has six hits in 12 at-bats in three games this week.
PLAY OF THE GAME
Betancourt has found a home in Mexico, and it shows with his play on the field. The veteran finished 1-for-4, including a key two-run double in the fourth that gave Mexico an early lead and set the tone for the game.
Betancourt, 34, played parts of nine seasons in the Major Leagues with Seattle, Kansas City and Milwaukee starting in 2005. He played in Japan in '14 and for Tijuana and Mexicali in Mexico last season.
GAME 2 Puerto Rico 12 Cuba 1
The loss was the second in a row for Cuba (0-2), which will face Venezuela's Tigres de Aragua on Thursday afternoon.
Puerto Rico scored two runs in the second inning and five runs -- two on a three-run home run by Kennys Vargas -- in the third frame for a 7-0 lead. Cuba scored its first run of the game on a single by Yorelvis Charles in the bottom of the fifth.
Puerto scored three more runs in the seventh and two in the ninth.
Puerto Rico outfielder Jorge Padilla, who spent parts of eight seasons in the Minors with the Phillies after being drafted in the third round in 1998, finished 2-for-3 with two RBIs, one run scored and a stolen base. He also played in the Minors with Kansas City, Washington, Toronto, San Diego and the New York Mets from 2006-12. Padilla has played in Mexico in addition to Puerto Rico.
PLAY OF THE GAME
Vargas is on a mission. He's determined to prove he belongs in the big leagues and had an impressive night at the plate in the victory. The Twins' designated hitter/first baseman hit a three-run home run and scored two runs on Wednesday.
Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.