Tejada blasts Aguilas to victory
Astros shortstop drills two homers in Caribbean Series win
SANTIAGO, Dominican Republic -- They sported red, white and blue uniforms, and America's favorite pastime was their game of choice Saturday night in the city's favorite stadium, but the Aguilas' style in the night's finale of Day One of the 2008 Caribbean Series was all Dominican and powerful.
And victorious. And record-setting.
The Dominican Republic No. 1, also known as the Aguilas Cibaenas, jumped out to a quick lead in the first inning and used two historic home runs by Astros shortstop Miguel Tejada to cruise past the Obregon Yaquis, 13-6, in front of a rambunctious crowd of flag-waving, horn-blowing and thunderstix-thumping fans at Estadio Cibao in the first game of the series for both teams.
The Aguilas will face Venezuela on Sunday night in the second game of the day. Dominican Republic No. 2 (Licey) defeated Venezuela, 6-4, in the first game Saturday and will face Mexico in Sunday's afternoon game.
"The most important thing was the Dominican support, and not just us, but with Licey also," Tejada said. "The fans put on a tremendous show, and we wanted to put on a show for them, too. They started it, and we wanted to finish it."
The night's finale was preceded by the series' opening ceremonies, a festive tribute to each of the teams and countries participating in the tournament, complete with music, dancers and a host of Dominican stars past and present in attendance.
In one corner of the infield, Jorge Bell shook hands with dignitaries. In the other, Dominican Republic secretary of sport Felipe Payan posed for photos. Fresh off a tryout with the Phillies, Odalis Perez was there clapping and chanting. Tony Pena Sr. was in the stands supporting his son, Aguilas shortstop Tony Pena Jr. Former Major Leaguers Mario Soto and Alfredo Griffin also stuck out in the crowd.
The beats blared, the cheerleaders danced and when the music finally stopped, the real thumping began.
The Dominican team tagged Mexico starter Alberto Castillo for five runs on two hits before he was pulled with two outs into the first inning. Isauro Pineda finished the inning for Mexico, but by then his club was trailing, 6-0, and the Aguilas appeared to be well on their way to living up to all of the hype.
But Mexico answered in the top of the second when Robert Saucedo and Iker Franco scored on a single by Albino Contreras for the Yaquis' first two runs of the game.
The Dominicans could be scored upon. It was going to be a competitive game after all. Or was it? In the bottom of the second, Tejada hit his first homer in the game and Mendy Lopez's RBI double extended the lead back to six runs and a dominating 8-2 lead. Tejada's homer was his 12th in Caribbean Series play, breaking a tie for the record he held with Tony Armas. Tejada added to the record with his 13th career Caribbean Series home run five innings later.
"We all did it tonight. What really motivated the team was the celebration before the game," Tejada said. "With all of our people and all of the merengue they played, I knew we had to do something good tonight. We wanted to do something beautiful for our country. We love the support of the country."
Mexico rallied with two runs in the fifth and two in the sixth to come within three, but the rally came up short. Mexico came no closer than 9-6.
"We didn't play well defensively, but the offense saved us," Dominican Republic manager Felix Fermin said. "Our pitching was great today. For me, [Dominican starter] Alfredo Simon did a great job. I am grateful for the job our offense did today."
In the seventh, Dominican catcher Brayan Pena and Tejada hit back-to-back home runs as part of a four-run frame to push the Dominicans' lead to 13-6 and put the game out of reach.
"Not all the games will be like today, but we are going to keep playing hard," Tejada said. "You know in this game you can never count on victories. That doesn't work. But we will be prepared, and that's important."
"I am happy for the country, for all my people," Tejada added. "I know the Dominican is very proud because we have the series here. I hope we can keep doing this."
Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.