Tigres defeat Puerto Rico, Mazatlan eliminates Cuba in semifinal games
By Jesse Sanchez
SEMIFINAL GAME 1 Venezuela 13, Puerto Rico 3
The Tigres de Aragua are going back to the Caribbean Series championship game.
On Saturday, Venezuela cruised past Puerto Rico's Cangrejeros de Santurce, 13-3, to advance to the tournament final Sunday against Mexico's Venados de Mazatlan, who defeated Cuba's Ciego de Avila, 7-2, in Saturday night's second semifinal game.
Venezuela is seeking its first Caribbean Series title since the Tigres won in 2009 in Mexicali, Mexico. Overall, the country has won seven Caribbean Series championships.
Ruben Sosa scored Puerto Rico's first run of the game in the first inning on a ground ball by first baseman Neftali Soto. An RBI single by Venezuela second baseman Hernan Perez in the next inning tied the score at 1. Baltimore's Dariel Alvarez scored from third on a sacrifice fly by Sandy Leon later in the inning to give the Tigres a 2-1 lead and an advantage it would not relinquish.
Venezuela scored again in the third inning, this time on an RBI single by Braves third baseman Adonis Garcia and two more times in the sixth to pull ahead, 5-1. The Tigres put the game away with five runs in the seventh.
A team from Puerto Rico has won the Caribbean Series 14 times, but the island still has not taken home the title since Santurce won in 2000.
Venezuela starter Marcus Walden kept Puerto Rico's offense at bay for 5 1/3 innings, limiting Santurce to one run on seven hits during his time on the mound. He also struck out three and did not walk a batter.
Walden, 27, who was drafted by Toronto in the ninth round of the 2007 Draft, has also played in the Minor Leagues for Oakland and Cincinnati. He signed a Minor League deal with the Twins in December.
PLAY OF GAME
Perez's triple to right field in the sixth inning pushed Venezuela ahead, 4-1. Teodoro Martinez followed with a double to score Perez to increase the lead to four runs.
Both plays sent the crowd at stadium into a frenzy.
Perez has seven total hits in five Caribbean Series games this week.
SEMIFINAL GAME 2 Mexico 7, Cuba 2
Mexico edged Cuba, 7-2, on Saturday night at Estadio Quisqueya to return to the Caribbean Series championship game for the third year in a row.
Mexico and Venezuela play the championship game Sunday at 3 p.m. ET.
It's been quite a run for Mexico. A team from the country won the Caribbean Series championship in 2013 (Yaquis de Obregon) and '14 (Naranjeros de Hermosillo). Cuba's Pinar del Rio defeated Mexico's Tomateros de Culiacan, 3-2, in the championship game last year in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Mexico's team from Obregon also won the title in '11.
On Saturday, Mexico scored three runs in the fourth inning and tacked on another run when former Major League infielder Yuniesky Betancourt scored on a single by catcher Erick Rodriguez for a 4-0 lead.
Mazatlan won its first and only Caribbean Series title in 2005 in Mazatlan. Cuba finished the tournament with a record of 1-4.
Betancourt went 3-for-4 with one run and four RBIs in the victory. Betancourt, 34, played parts of nine seasons with the Major Leagues with Seattle, Kansas City and Milwaukee starting in 2005. He played in Japan in 2014 and for Tijuana and Mexicali in Mexico last season.
PLAY OF THE GAME
Mexico second baseman Esteban Quiroz made a fine defensive play in the top of the seventh inning, fielding a hard-hit ball by Cuba's Stayler Hernandez, and then getting the forceout at second before firing the ball to first baseman Cyle Hankerd to complete the inning-ending double play.
Cuba's first three hitters of the inning reached base and scored runs, but Quiroz's play ended the scoring threat.
Mexico tacked on three runs in the bottom of the inning to add to the lead.
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.