The Caribbean Series pressed forward with a pair of semifinal games Saturday as the premier baseball event in Latin America set the stage for Sunday's championship matchup.
Venezuela powered past Puerto Rico, 13-3, in the opening game, while top-seeded Mexico met defending champion Cuba in the finale.
Here is a look at the updated standings and schedule:
|Caribbean Series: Updated Standings|
|MLB.com; Highlight indicates teams eliminated|
|Caribbean Series 2016: Schedule|
|Monday, Feb. 1||Result|
|Puerto Rico vs. Venezuela||VEN, 2-1|
|Mexico vs. Dominican Republic||MEX, 3-2|
|Tuesday, Feb. 2||Result|
|Cuba vs. Mexico||MEX, 9-3|
|Venezuela vs. Dominican Republic||VEN, 8-7|
|Wednesday, Feb. 3||Result|
|Venezuela vs. Mexico||MEX, 6-4|
|Puerto Rico vs. Cuba||PUR, 12-1|
|Thursday, Feb. 4||Result|
|Venezuela vs. Cuba||VEN, 3-1|
|Dominican Republic vs. Puerto Rico||PUR, 2-1|
|Friday, Feb. 5||Time (ET)|
|Mexico vs. Puerto Rico||MEX, 8-4|
|Cuba vs. Dominican Republic||CUBA, 4-2|
|Saturday, Feb. 6||Time (ET)|
|Semifinal 1: Puerto Rico vs. Venezuela||VEN, 13-3|
|Semifinal 2: Cuba vs. Mexico||MEX, 7-2|
|Sunday, Feb. 7||Time (ET)|
Venezuela 13, Puerto Rico 3
Venezuela will play for its first Caribbean Series title since 2006 after capitalizing on four Puerto Rico errors to handily eliminate its foes, 13-3.
The Puerto Ricans nearly matched Venezuela in offensive production—tallying 13 hits to Venezuela’s 14—but couldn’t manufacture many runs to keep pace.
However, it didn’t seem as though that would be the case when Puerto Rico led off the game with a pair of hits and scored first on an RBI groundout by Neftali Soto, and it appeared as though Puerto Rico would be able to exploit Venezuela starting pitcher Marcus Walden, who has allowed opposing batters to hit .304 this week.
But Venezuela quickly responded with a pair of runs in the second inning, with one coming on a fielding error by center fielder Henry Ramos while he tried to field a line drive smacked by Hernan Perez.
Venezuela added another in the third and two in the sixth before opening the floodgates with five runs in the seventh.
Dariel Alvarez smacked a two-run double with one out, and Jose Martinez followed with an RBI single that scored Alvarez.
Here is a look at a few of the seventh-inning highlights, courtesy of ESPN Beisbol:
Walden picked up the win with 5.1 innings of work, allowing the lone run and seven hits with three strikeouts and no walks. Puerto Rico had five pitchers allow multiple runs, and Adalberto Flores was credited with the loss.
Venezuela now awaits the winner of the Mexico-Cuba game. Venezuela suffered its lone loss of the week to Mexico, 6-4, but played closely throughout and will be out for vengeance Sunday.
Mexico 7, Cuba 2
Mexico cruised to a 7-2 win over defending champion Cuba in a game that represented a microcosm of their week in the Caribbean Series, as Mexico moved to 5-0 and will look to win its third title in four years.
Mexico took a commanding 4-0 lead through the first six innings before allowing Cuba’s first run in the top of the seventh. But the tournament’s top seed gave a proverbial shrug and responded with three scores the next half-inning that it rode to victory, overcoming a pair of errors along the way.
After Mexico loaded the bases with no outs in the fourth, Yuniesky Betancourt grounded a single to left that scored Alex Liddi, then Esteban Quiroz drew a bases-loaded walk during the ensuing at-bat that gave Mexico a 2-0 lead. Erick Rodriguez grounded into a double play next, but he brought home Jorge Vazquez in the process.
Betancourt scored again in the sixth on an RBI single by Rodriguez that gave Mexico a 4-0 lead before Cuba finally got on the board with an RBI single from Osvaldo Vazquez in the seventh.
But Betancourt answered with a one-out double that cleared the bases to bring home three runs with one swing of the bat. Here’s a look at the play, courtesy of ESPN Beisbol:
Cuba crossed another run in the eighth, but that was all it could muster the rest of the way.
Starting pitcher Hector Daniel Rodriguez earned the win after contributing six solid innings with one earned run on four hits with three walks and four strikeouts. Cuban starter Vladimir Banos took the loss after lasting just three innings and allowing four runs (three earned) on three hits.
Mexico should be favored to win the title Sunday, but it must maintain its torrid pace against a Venezuela team certainly capable of the upset.
In their first meeting Wednesday, Venezuela had runners on first and third with two outs when Hernan Perez flied out to center to end the game and secure Mexico a 6-4 victory.