Cuba tops Puerto Rico in earlier Caribbean Series matchup
By Jesse Sanchez
Mexico catcher Sebastian Valle hit a walk-off grand slam off Pedro Rodriguez on a full count in the ninth inning to propel the home team to a 5-1 victory against Venezuela in the Caribbean Series nightcap Friday at Estadio Tomateros.
Valle, 26, who signed a Minor League deal with the Mariners in December and spent eight seasons in the Minor Leagues with the Phillies beginning in 2007, finished 2-for-4. Valle also played in the Minors with the Pirates in '15 and in the Yankees' organization last season.
As for Rodriguez, he spent parts of last season in Mexico with Yucatan and with San Francisco's Double-A team in Richmond.
Venezuela scored its only run in the third inning on an RBI single by first baseman Jose Castillo. Mexico tied the game at 1 in the sixth on an RBI single by C.J. Retherford that scored Jason Bourgeois (White Sox).
Mexico improved to 3-0 with the victory and earned a spot in Monday's semifinals. The loss dropped Venezuela to 1-1.
NOTABLE PERFORMERS: Former Major League pitcher Barry Enright allowed only one run in five solid innings for Mexico. He also struck out five batters. Enright pitched in the big leagues for the D-backs in '10 and '11 and for parts of two seasons for the Angels starting in '12.
PLAY OF THE GAME: It was a night to remember for Valle. He has hit 74 home runs during his 10-year Minor League career, but his grand slam will forever live in Caribbean Series lore and will be one he never forgets.
Cuba's Alazanes de Granma defeated Puerto Rico's Criollos de Caguas, 6-1, in the first game of the Caribbean Series on Friday afternoon at Estadio Tomateros.
Cuba scored the first run of the game on a single by second baseman Carlos Benitez in the bottom of the second, and Puerto Rico answered with a run of its own on a sacrifice fly to center field by Twins outfielder Eddie Rosario in the top of the third.
The tie did not last long.
Veteran outfielder Alfredo Despaigne drove in a run on a single, and first baseman William Saavedra hit an RBI double and later scored on a sacrifice fly by Benitez to give Cuba a comfortable 4-1 lead. Saavedra hit a two-run home run in the seventh to extend the advantage to 6-1.
Cuba improved to 2-0 in the series with the victory. The loss dropped Puerto Rico to 0-3.
NOTABLE PERFORMERS: Saavedra provided the spark on offense, finishing 3-for-4 with three RBIs. Right-handed starter Vladimir Garcia kept Puerto Rico's offense in check with six strong innings of one-run ball. He struck out two batters and walked one.
PLAY OF THE GAME: Puerto Rico's offense struggled for most of the game, but the effort on defense never wavered. Left fielder Henry Ramos went 0-for-4 at the plate, but he made an outstanding running catch in foul territory on a ball hit by Cuba center fielder Roel Santos to end the seventh inning.
Jesse Sanchez, who has been writing for MLB.com since 2001, is a national reporter based in Phoenix. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.