Knox leads Venezuela in Series opener

Venezuela wins Caribbean opener

MEXICALI, Mexico -- Venezuela's Brad Knox went from legendary status to potential game-winning pitcher to "that guy who shut out the Dominican Republic for six innings" in a matter of minutes.

Knox dominated the Dominican Republic in the first game of the Caribbean Series on Monday at Estadio Casas GEO, stymieing a team loaded with Major League talent, but all he had to show for it was a no-decision when the game ended.

It didn't matter. His team won.

When Venezuela's Tigres de Aragua scored one run in the top of the ninth inning to edge the highly favored Dominican Republic's Tigres de Licey, 3-2, in the series matinee, it was Knox who was smiling ear-to-ear.

The Dominican Republic squares off against Puerto Rico in Tuesday's matinee. Venezuela will play Mexico in the nightcap.

Knox, who spent last year in the Minor Leagues with Oakland, was literally unhittable. Venezuela's offense also did its part.

In the second inning, Tigres third baseman Luis Ugueto drew a two-out walk and advanced to third base on a throwing error by Dominican third baseman Ronnie Belliard. Ugueto trotted home when the next batter, Ramon Castro, followed with a single to left field to put Venezuela up, 1-0.

The Tigres added another run in the seventh inning when catcher Alex Delgado led off the inning with a single and advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Castro and a ground ball to the right side of the infield by Rodney Medina. Luis Maza's second double of the game scored Delgado to extend Venezuela's lead to 2-0.

Knox was on a roll. In six innings, he had not allowed a base hit, struck out five hitters and walked three. He retired Timo Perez to start the seventh but a walk to Jose Bautista -- Knox's fourth base on balls of the afternoon -- ended his outing.

"He was at 90 pitches, the most he had pitched all year," Venezuela manager Buddy Bailey said. "He hadn't pitched in eight days and it's hard to let a guy go longer than he has pitched all year. We are going to need him for another game."

Knox walked off the mound to a standing ovation from the Venezuelan contingent. Across the diamond, Belliard strolled to the batter's box in silence while Knox's replacement, Yohan Pino, warmed up.

As it turned out, it was Belliard who was heating up. The veteran smashed a 1-1 delivery from Pino over the wall in left field to tie the game at 2, and just like that, Knox's near no-no became an afterthought in the history of Venezuelan baseball.

Maza drove home Castro with a single to center field for the game-winner for Venezuela.

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