Field set for Caribbean Series
Hermosillo advances with 1-0 victory over Mazatlan
The start of the 2010 Caribbean Series is only two days away and the lions of Latin American baseball are already gearing up for their annual showdown.
The fans are ready and the field is set.
On Saturday, Mexico's Naranjeros de Hermosillo joined Winter League championship teams from Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico in the round-robin tournament after edging Mazatlan, 1-0, in Game 7 of the league championship series.
Juan Delgadillo pitched 7 2/3 shutout innings to outduel Padres right-hander Walter Silva. The game's only run scored in the first inning on a Vinny Castilla sacrifice fly after Chris Roberson tripled to lead off the game.
The six-day Caribbean Series begins Tuesday on the Venezuelan island of Margarita.
It's already been quite a week for Caribbean baseball.
In Venezuela on Friday, Leones del Caracas cruised past Navegantes del Magallanes, 7-2, in Game 7 of the country's winter league championship to claim the league title and earn a berth in the round-robin tournament that begins Tuesday on Margarita Island in the country.
Earlier Friday evening in Puerto Rico, Red Sox Minor Leaguer Angel Sanchez went 4-for-6 with two runs scored and an RBI to pace Indios de Mayaguez past the Criollos de Caguas, 8-6, in 11 innings to claim their first championship since 2005 and a chance at the Caribbean Series title.
On Thursday in the Dominican Republic, Minnesota pitcher Francisco Liriano struck out 10 batters over five scoreless innings to lead Leones del Escogido to a 5-3 win over Gigantes del Cibao for the Dominican League title in the deciding ninth game of the series to become the first team to qualify for this year's tournament.
This year's Caribbean Series starts with the Puerto Rico team squaring off against the Dominican Republic in a matinee followed by the opening ceremony and matchup between Venezuela and Mexico on Tuesday night.
Venezuela and the Dominican Republic will meet on Feb. 4, in the third game of the round-robin for each team, and it's going to be a catfight. Venezuela, the reigning Caribbean Series champion, rolled through the 2009 tournament in Mexicali, Mexico, with a 5-1 record. Last year's team from the Dominican Republic finished in the bottom half of the standings along with Puerto Rico with a 2-4 record. Mexico finished the tourney at 3-3.
But here's why the Dominican club is feeling confident: a team from the island has won the Caribbean Series title 17 times, the most among teams currently competing in the tournament, since 1970 and 11 times since 1990.
Here's why Caracas should feel just as optimistic: the Leones never trailed in Friday's Game 7, scoring four runs in the first inning and tacking on three runs in the final two frames for a comfortable lead and victory. Not even Giants star Pablo Sandoval, who made a special trip to Venezuela to play for Magallanes, proved to be enough. Sandoval finished 1-for-4 with a single.
Puerto Rico should be rested. Mayaguez led Friday's game 5-3 after seven innings but Caguas, behind back-to-back home runs by Cesar Nicolas and Aaron Bates tied the game at 5 in the eighth inning. The teams exchanged runs in the 10th but Jesus Feliciano and Randy Ruiz each scored in the 11th to end the best-of-seven series after only five games.
Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.