Panama knocked out of Classic
Manager Lopez frustrated by lack of run production in two losses
By Will Gonzalez / Special to MLB.com
Panama was unable to score for the second night in a row and was eliminated from the Classic with a record of 0-2.
"It was the same thing as [Saturday] night. If a team does not score runs, it cannot win," Lopez said. "We struggled here and there. We went 18 innings without a run. We can't win that way."
Lopez, however, acknowledged that the Dominican pitching played a role in his team's lack of production on Sunday.
"You have to give credit to the other team because they pitched well," Lopez said. "We didn't have a chance to do anything, nothing at all."
Johnny Cueto, the Dominican starter, kept Panama scoreless during his 4 2/3 innings. He scattered three hits, a walk and two hit batsmen. Panama mounted a threat against him in the bottom of the first inning. It had men on first and second with two outs, but Cueto struck out Julio Zuleta, the fifth hitter in Panama's lineup.
Zuleta finished the game 0 for 4 with three strikeouts. He finished the Classic without getting on base in eight at-bats.
Carlos Lee, Panama's fourth hitter, finished the Classic 1-for-7.
"It is very difficult in these short tournaments to hit," Lee said after the game. "It is not like in the Majors. Here, I am the center of attention for the other team. In the whole Classic, I maybe saw three or four fastballs. With what little I saw, I tried to do a lot to help the team. But I will keep on working. Now this stage is over and there will be a new stage. I will get ready to play in the big leagues."
Panama's starter, Ramiro Mendoza, did his best to contain the Dominicans. But for the second night in a row, Panama committed two errors in a game.
Mendoza was tagged with the loss, but he was charged with only two earned runs in his four innings. Mendoza allowed four hits and an intentional walk.
Lopez made Mendoza intentionally walk Jose Reyes and face Willy Taveras with the bases loaded and one out in the third inning.
Mendoza succeeded in getting Taveras to hit a grounder, but Panama third baseman Javier Castillo committed an error in attempting to catch the ball, and Jose Guillen, who was the runner on third, scored. It was the second error of the inning. Shortstop Ruben Tejada let Guillen, the first batter in the inning, get on base with a throwing error.
The second Dominican run was scored with the help of a fielder's choice off the bat of Fernando Tatis. Mendoza broke Tatis' bat and caught the softly hit ball on the mound. Mendoza tried to catch Nelson Cruz, who was running home from third base, but his throw to the plate was not in time.
David Ortiz batted in the third run with a single to right field. Reyes scored, but Taveras was nailed at the plate by a throw from right fielder Concepcion Rodriguez to catcher Carlos Ruiz.
Mendoza fell victim to Miguel Olivo in the fourth inning when Olivo hit a two-run homer.
Manuel Corpas relieved Mendoza in the fifth inning and Cruz hit a solo home run against him.
Yeliar Castro relieved Corpas in the seventh and Olivo hit a three-run homer to seal the score at 9-0.
Not all was bad for the Panamanian squad. Ruiz played the whole game without displaying discomfort after it was feared that he would be unable to play due to a neck strain. Ruiz went 1-for-3.
Leadoff hitter and left fielder Luis Durango went 2-for-3 and finished the Classic with three hits in five at-bats.
Dominican manager Felipe Alou said that the quality of Panama's baseball should not be judged by the two losses.
"I feel bad for them," Alou said. "If we had been the ones who lost the game it would not have revealed the state of baseball in my country. Panamanian baseball is better than what those two defeats showed."