Castillo, Reyes help lead Venezuela past DR

Despaigne's blast helps Cuba top Mexico; semifinals set for Monday

Castillo, Reyes help lead Venezuela past DR

Former Major League outfielder Rene Reyes hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth inning to propel Venezuela's Aguilas de Zulia to 4-3 win over the Dominican Republic's Tigres de Licey in Sunday's matinee of the Caribbean Series at Estadio Tomateros.

Venezuela, Cuba, Mexico and Puerto Rico will play in the semifinal games on Monday. The Dominican Republic was eliminated from the tournament on Saturday, as the Tigres finished 0-4.

The Dominican Republic appeared on its way to its first victory. The Tigres grabbed an early lead on a run-scoring single by outfielder Alfredo Marte and a throwing error on the play by center fielder Herlis Rodriguez for a 2-0 advantage. Venezuela answered in the bottom of the fifth on a solo home run to right by first baseman Jose Castillo to cut the lead to 2-1.

Marte played in the big leagues with the D-backs in 2013 and '14, and in five games with the Angels in '15. He played independent ball last year and spent parts of the season in the Minor Leagues with Baltimore and Philadelphia.

Castillo played in parts of five seasons with the Pirates, Giants and Astros from 2004-08.

Former big league infielder Ronny Cedeno drove in a run for Venezuela to cut the Dominican Republic's lead to 3-2 in the eighth to set up Reyes' heroics.

Notable performer
Rodriguez, who signed with the Indians in 2010 and played 116 games for the club's Triple-A team in Columbus last season, went 1-for-4 with two runs scored. He scored the Dominican Republic's third run on a ground ball to Venezuela shortstop Freddy Galvis to extend the lead to two runs.

Play of the game
Reyes' home run was among the biggest of his professional career. He hit two home runs in 81 games for the Rockies during the 2003 and '04 seasons. He has played the last 12 seasons in Venezuela and Mexico.


Granma outfielder Alfredo Despaigne is a living legend in Cuba.

He's known internationally as "El Caballo de los Caballos," Spanish for "The horse of horses." On Sunday night, he showed why.

Despaigne, 30, hit a three-run home run as part of a four-run fifth inning to lead Cuba to a 4-0 victory against Mexico's Aguilas de Mexicali at Estadio de Tomateros.

Puerto Rico's Criollos de Caguas will play Venezuela's Aguilas de Zulia on Monday afternoon in the tournament's first semifinal game. Mexico will take on Cuba in the nightcap. Venezuela and Mexico will be the home teams.

The semifinal winners will square off Tuesday for the 2017 Caribbean Series title.

As for Despaigne, he is a three-time MVP in Serie Nacional, Cuba's top league, and a mainstay on Cuba's national team. He played with Campeche in Mexico in 2014 and played the first of three seasons with Chiba Lotte in Japan later the same year. According to reports, he's on the verge of finalizing a three-year pact for an estimated $16 million with Japan's Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks.

Cuba first baseman William Saavedra followed Despaigne with a solo home run to give Granma a four-run cushion.

Notable performers 
Saavedra finished 1-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI. He is one of the hottest hitters in the tournament. Overall, he's 6-for-16 with a home run, a double, four RBIs and three runs scored.

Play of the game
Despaigne finished the game 1-for-4. His home run was only his second hit of the series.

Jesse Sanchez, who has been writing for 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.