Venezuela stuns Aguilas for second win
Defeat for Dominican club means it needs a win vs. Licey
SANTIAGO, Dominican Republic -- The showdown was supposed to be a sure thing.
In the matinee on Wednesday, Mexico upset the undefeated Licey Tigres with a three-run home run in the 10th inning to give the Tigres their first loss of the Caribbean Series and lead many to believe that Thursday night's series finale between Licey and Aguilas Cibaenas, who entered Wednesday night's match against Venezuela with only one loss, would be for the country's bragging rights.
It was going to be Licey versus the Aguilas, again.
It was the game every fan in the Dominican Republic wanted, the battle between the only-once beaten Dominican Republic teams to determine the champion at Estadio Cibao in the last game of the round-robin.
The fact that former Cy Young Award winner Bartolo Colon was on the mound for the Aguilas against the light-hitting Venezuelan squad only gave the locals more confidence.
There are no sure things at this stadium.
Venezuela's Tigres de Aragua stunned the crowd and likely the entire country by dominating the Aguilas Cibaenas for an 8-5 victory in the nightcap to complete the day of upsets in the tournament.
"After a game like the one Licey lost, we were thinking ahead and hoping to get the win," Aguilas shortstop T.J. Pena said. "It didn't work out. Now we just have to win tomorrow and hopefully win again on Friday."
Licey (4-1) and the Aguilas (3-2) square off on Thursday night and could be headed for a playoff game on Friday to determine the champion if the Aguilas win the finale. The Tigres de Aragua (2-3) face Mexico (1-4) in the matinee.
"We got guys on and then we were able to get the big hits," Tigres de Aragua manager Buddy Bailey said. "Today we did a lot of things right. Hopefully tomorrow we come in and find a way to do the same thing, win another game. The way it shakes out, it would be a miracle, but we could finish tied for second in this thing. That would be quite an accomplishment with the team that we had here when we didn't bring all the studs with us."
Colon, still looking for a Major League job, is likely still looking. His outing was adequate at best, as he allowed two runs and five hits over 4 1/3 innings for the Aguilas. Scoreless after two innings, his Aguilas teammates jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the third inning by virtue of an RBI single by Dodgers shortstop Rafael Furcal. But Selwyn Langaigne's RBI double in the fourth tied the game at 1 for Venezuela.
It would not get better for the former Angels pitcher.
In the fifth, Tigres de Aragua second baseman Jose Martinez led off the inning with a single off of Colon. One out later, Alex Nunez followed with a single to right field to mark the end of the big right-hander's night on the mound and the beginning of Francisco Cruceta's on it.
Luis Maza's single scored Martinez to put the Tigres de Aragua ahead, 2-1, to close the book on Colon and his 57-pitch outing. Colon was done but the team from Venezuela was not, tacking on another run in the sixth and three more in the seventh to pull ahead, 6-1.
"I told my guys, baseball's crazy, because these guys [on Aguilas] have a lot of big leaguers and this team has only one big leaguer right now," Castro said. "Everybody played well, everybody put it together and that's great."
Castro's solo home run in eighth inning extended the Tigres lead to 7-1. The Aguilas added four runs in the bottom of the eighth, three on a home run by Reds third baseman Edwin Encarnacion to cut the lead to 8-5.
"I think the key was that when they got the tying run to the plate, one out, and you're just begging for an out, we were able to get the double play," Bailey said. "If we get an out, we've still got to face another one [with the tying run up]. Instead we only had to go through one batter there with the tying run at the plate instead of having to deal with trying to get out of two."
Tigres de Aragua reliever Francisco Butto shut down the Dominican offense in the final two innings, walking Furcal to lead off the ninth, but recovering to retire the next three batters in order, including a strikeout of Astros shortstop Miguel Tejada .
"Obviously it didn't work out the way we wanted to," Encarnacion said. "Tomorrow is another day and we'll come out tomorrow to play. This is baseball. Things happen like that."
Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.