Dominicans remain unbeaten

Dominicans remain unbeaten

CAROLINA, P.R. -- Popular merengue singer Millie Quezada worked the home fans into a frenzy with songs from an elaborate stage just beyond the wall in right-center field. Puerto Rico's favorite world champion, boxer Felix "Tito" Trinidad, brought the crowd to its feet a few minutes later when he threw out the ceremonial first pitch.

The home country's flag -- five red and white stripes with a single white five-pointed star inside a blue triangle -- snapped in the air throughout the stands at Roberto Clemente Walker Stadium, and the smell of home cooking -- the pinchos de pollo (chicken kabob), empanadas, donitas (tiny deep-fried doughnuts) sold at the concession stands -- literally filled the air.

It was a perfect night for Puerto Rico's Carolina Gigantes ... until the game started and the Dominican Republic squad made it clear that it was the only factor that really mattered, rolling to a 12-0 victory in the battle between the only two undefeated teams in the 2007 Caribbean Series.

"It was a great game for us, and I give thanks to God that our offense started off quickly," Dominican Republic manager Felix Fermin said. "When you are in the opposing team's stadium, in my opinion, that is a huge advantage for them. But to come out with a win is the sign of the good team we have."

With the victory, the Dominican Republic improves to 3-0 in round-robin play. The loss drops Puerto Rico's record to 2-1. The Dominican Republic faces Venezuela (1-2) in the matinee on Monday. Puerto Rico plays Mexico (0-3) in the second game.

The Dominican Republic wasted little time against Puerto Rico starter Jonathan Albaladejo, tagging the Pittsburgh pitching prospect with four runs on five hits in the first inning. He was replaced by Josue Matos after he was unable to get an out in the second inning and was eventually charged with six runs (five earned) on seven hits in the 34-pitch outing.

After two innings, the Dominican Republic led 6-0, and all Albaladejo could do from the bench was watch the scoreboard numbers add up on the line next to DOM and stay at zero for PUR.

That is, if he could bear to watch.

In the fourth, the Dominican Republic added three runs -- one on an RBI by Miguel Tejada and two RBIs by outfielder Nelson Cruz -- to extend the lead to 9-0.

Nine was more than enough on this night. One run would have been.

Dominican Republic starter Fabio Castro had a crafty hand in the victory. The diminutive southpaw allowed only two hits in five innings before yielding to Santiago Ramirez in the sixth.

"I felt really strong and confident about pitching in such an important game for my country," Castro said. "I just tried to stay ahead in the count and do the best job I could out there."

All Ramirez did was strike out one batter in two scoreless innings and hand the ball to Arnie Munoz in the eighth.

If Ramirez and Munoz looked comfortable on the mound, it was with good reason. In the bottom of the seventh, their club scored three runs for a 12-0 advantage and succeeded in eliminating any doubt about the game's outcome.

"Fabio Castro did a fabulous job; all credit goes to him," Fermin said. "He did a great job against a very dangerous team."

The Puerto Rican fans -- those who remained past the sixth inning -- began to file out of the stadium at a faster pace soon after the seventh.

Even the cheerleaders who danced on Puerto Rico's dugout every other inning called it a night by the eighth. In the end, Millie was gone, the stage was empty and Tito was nowhere to be found.

The remaining fragrance of the night was the sweet smell of victory for the Dominican Republic, and the only flags left in the stands boasted a central white cross with red and blue rectangles in the corners, with the seal of the Republica Dominicana in the middle.

Yet despite the outcome, the ninth consecutive loss against the Dominican Republic in Caribbean Series play, the Puerto Rico faithful left the stadium with something powerful -- hope.

"We didn't pitch like we could and didn't play like we can," Puerto Rico manager Lino Rivera said. "I guarantee that if the Dominican Republic is in the finals, we will be, too. I guarantee we will qualify."

Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.