02/06/09 3:08 AM EST
Mexico's win in extras spells showdown
Host team to face undefeated Venezuelans with title at stake
By Jesse Sanchez / MLB.com
Mexico's Venados de Mazatlan topped Puerto Rico's Leones de Ponce, 5-1, in 12 innings at Estadio Casas GEO on Thursday night to remain in the hunt for the Caribbean series title and set the stage for a rematch with the undefeated Tigres de Aragua from Venezuela on Friday.
A win by Venezuela (4-0) against Mexico (3-1) would clinch the Caribbean Series title for the Tigres. A victory by Mexico would give the clubs identical 4-1 records entering the last day of play on Saturday.
"Obviously if we want to win the Caribbean Series, we have to win tomorrow," Mexico manager Lorenzo Bundy said. "The reality is, tomorrow is the championship. We don't win and the Tigres de Aragua are the champions."
Puerto Rico came close to spoiling the showdown but Mexico right fielder Christian Quintero drove home Miguel Ojeda with a single up the middle to push the Venados ahead, 2-1, in the 12th. Ojeda walked and advanced to third base on an errant throw to second base by Puerto Rico first baseman Carlos Rivera on Heber Gomez's sacrifice bunt.
Designated hitter Freddy Sandoval followed with a two-run double and Edgar Gonzalez drove Sandoval home with a double to extend Mexico's lead to 5-1. Gonzalez finished the game 4-for-6 and is hitting .550 in the series.
Puerto Rico was eliminated from championship contention when Venezuela beat the Dominican Republic earlier Thursday. The loss drops their record to 0-4.
But the Leones had their chances.
Tied at 1, Puerto Rico threatened in the bottom of the ninth. Center fielder Jesus Feliciano hit a single with one out and stole second base. He advanced to third on a groundball off the bat of Puerto Rico shortstop Luis Figueroa. After a walk to Andy Gonzalez, Mexico's Tim Lavigne was immediately replaced by Jose Luis Garcia.
Garcia struck out Rivera to send the game into extra innings, for the second consecutive night for Mexico.
In the third inning, Figueroa led off with a double to right field and advanced to third on a wild pitch from Mexico starter Pablo Ortega. He raced home on a sacrifice to center field by Carlos Rivera to give the Leones a 1-0 lead.
Puerto Rico starter Bill Pulsipher retired the first four batters he faced before giving up a triple to second baseman Edgar Gonzalez in the second. But Mexico's scoring threat was squashed when the next hitter, Ruben Rivera, hit a line drive to Figueroa. Figueroa tossed the ball to third base to pick off Gonzalez and complete the double play.
Pulsipher stymied the Mexican offense for two innings until the fifth. Gonzalez led off the inning with a single and advanced to second base on a groundball by Cristhian Presichi. He tied the game at 1 when Ojeda drove him home with a single to right field.
As for Ortega, he was charged with nine hits and one run in 6 1/3 innings. Pulsipher was relieved in the seventh inning by Ivan Maldonado and was charged with six hits while striking out seven.
Maldonado struck out two hitters in 1 2/3 innings before Fernando Cabrera took over for Puerto Rico in the ninth. Cabrera also pitched a perfect 10th inning despite getting hit in the foot on a comebacker to the mound by Christian Quintero.
Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.