02/05/09 8:59 PM EST
Venezuela in Caribbean driver's seat
Tigres de Aragua can clinch Series title with win on Friday
By Jesse Sanchez / MLB.com
With Venezuela's victory, the Dominican team (1-3), last year's champion, and Puerto Rico (0-3) have been eliminated from championship contention. Mexico, 2-1 entering Thursday night's matchup against Puerto Rico, is Venezuela's biggest threat. The round robin continues Friday with the Dominican Republic squaring off against Puerto Rico in the matinee. Venezuela faces Mexico in the nightcap and seeks its first the Caribbean Series title since 2006.
"We are in the driver's seat," Venezuela manager Buddy Bailey said. "Regardless of what happens in this game between Mexico and Puerto Rico [on Thursday night], if we win tomorrow against Mexico, we win [the Caribbean Series]."
With Yohan Pino on the mound for Venezuela, the Dominican Republic tallied two runs in the first inning on a two-run home run by Pirates catcher Ronny Paulino to take an early lead. Licey starter Nerio Rodriguez made the lead stand -- for two innings.
Licey would not score again.
In the third inning, Venezuela's Ramon Castro led off the frame with a single and scored on a single by Jackson Melian for the team's first run. Jackson and Rodney Medina each scored on the single by Selwyn Langaigne for a 3-2 lead.
Pino never returned to the mound after the second inning and was charged with both runs, five hits and two strikeouts in the brief outing.
He was not missed. Venezuela's bullpen was almost perfect. Pitching in relief of Pino, Jorge Sosa did not allow a run in his two innings pitched. Andrew Lorraine pitched a scoreless inning and Ivan Blanco followed suit with two more scoreless frames.
"Our pitchers have been outstanding," Bailey said. "We've given up only about six runs in four games and we haven't had much offense. But when your pitching is solid and you play good defense, you stay in the game hopefully you get a few wins out of it."
Victor Moreno pitched a scoreless eighth inning and retired two hitters in the ninth inning before yielding to Francisco Butto.
"It's a good situation for us and a good place to be but at the same time, we need to win a game and hopefully it's [Friday]," Bailey said. "Everything is going our way right now. I hope the baseball gods stay on our side."
Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.