Venezuela Claims First Serie Del Caribe Championship in 15 Years With 3-0 Win Over DR

Serie Del Caribe

After 9 days and 24 games, it all came down to the championship game between Venezuela and the Dominican Republic in the Serie Del Caribe. Both teams were the favorites to reach the finals but each had a different path to get to this point. Venezuela finished round-robin play in first place with a 5-1 record. DR finished in third place and entered the playoffs with a 3-3 record tied with Curacao and Puerto Rico. PR was the odd team out and got sent home early with Curacao nabbing the fourth and final playoff slot.

Caribbean Series Championships by country: Dominican Republic – 22, Puerto Rico – 16, Mexico – 9, Cuba – 8, Venezuela – 7, Panama – 2, and Colombia – 1

Drama Right Out of the Gate

It was quite the eventful first inning to kick off this championship game as both teams had an opportunity to get on the scoreboard. With two outs in the top half of the frame, longtime second-baseman for the New York Yankees Robinson Cano doubled down the left field line. Venezuela’s starter, Ricardo Pinto, got some support from his defense thanks to Yasiel Puig‘s sliding catch in left field to end the inning and rob the Dominican Republic of a first-inning run.

Venezuela threatened with two runners getting on base in the bottom of the first. Wilfredo Tovar singled with one out and Wilson Ramos singled to right field with two outs. Up came one of Venezuela’s sluggers and one of the more popular names of the tournament, Yasiel Puig.

DR’s starter, Cesar Valdez, escaped the jam in the bottom of the first with defensive support of his own and got Puig to sharply hit a groundball in the hole to shortstop. Gustavo Nunez made a sliding catch and threw to second base for the force out.

Venezuela Strikes First

Through the first three innings, Valdez only recorded one inning where he retired the side in order. He escaped another jam in the second inning stranding two more runners but you can see Venezuela’s lineup was figuring him out.

It didn’t get much easier for Valdez in the middle innings. In the bottom of the fourth, Puig led off with a single to center field and after he reached base, Odubel Herrera pinch-ran for him. Puig suffered an injury on his sliding catch in the first inning that was still lingering. Ramon Flores followed that up with a single to give Venezuela runners on first and second.

Luis Torrens laid down a sacrifice bunt to move both runners into scoring position and DR decided to walk Leonardo Reginatto to load the bases. With one out, Alcides Escobar came to the plate and he gave Venezuela a 1-0 lead with a sacrifice fly to right field to bring in Herrera. Pinto escaped further damage in the fourth by striking out Alexi Amarista to end the inning.

Venezuela did not waste any time in the fifth inning facing a new pitcher for DR, Jonathan Aro. Tovar led off the frame with a single and Hernan Perez brought him in with a triple to right-center field. Perez has been a huge part of the offense for Venezuela during this tournament including a game with 4 RBIs against Panama earlier in the week. Venezuela tacked on another run with an RBI groundout by Herrera to bring Perez in and extend their lead to 3-0.

Pitching, Pitching, and Then Some More Pitching

With a lead in place, Venezuela’s pitching staff continued to dominate. Pinto carried a shutout into the sixth inning and recorded the first two outs. He got into some trouble however, surrendering a one-out single to Emilio Bonifacio and walked Cano with two outs. Pinto’s night on the mound ended the following at-bat after hitting Dawel Lugo with a pitch to load the bases. Jorgan Cavaneiro was called upon out of Venezuela’s bullpen and got Ramon Hernandez to ground out to escape the jam.

That was the best opportunity the Dominican Republic would have to tie the game as Venezuela’s bullpen shut the door in the late innings. Silvino Bracho and Anthony Vizcaya pitched a scoreless seventh and eighth inning and Arnaldo Hernandez recorded a 1-2-3 ninth inning for his fourth save in the Serie Del Caribe.

The entire Venezuelan pitching staff was masterful throughout the tournament and even more so in the playoffs. In the last 27 innings (three games) Venezuela played, including the championship, their pitching staff allowed only two runs and closed out the tournament with 14 consecutive shutout innings.

It was no surprise that the MVP for the Serie Del Caribe was Ricardo Pinto who ended up being the winning pitcher for the championship game. In the tournament, Pinto went 2-0 in two starts giving up only one run in 10 2/3 innings with 14 strikeouts.

Los Tiburones de la Guaira: First Serie Del Caribe Championship Title

Once the final out was recorded, the party in Little Havana was on and the crowd in loanDepot Park erupted. Luckily, the game was played with the roof open because it seemed like the roof would have popped off with how loud it was. Close to 37,000 fans (36,677) were in attendance to see Venezuela win their first Serie Del Caribe title in 15 years and the first one ever for the team the Tiburones de La Guaira.

The attendance for the championship game between Venezuela and the Dominican Republic was the largest crowd ever to attend a Serie Del Caribe game and also surpassed the attendance numbers for any game in the 2023 World Baseball Classic at loanDepot Park. 

It is safe to say that there is still a love and passion for the game among fans in South Florida. It showed last year in the WBC and it transferred over to the Miami Marlins 2023 season. The Marlins recorded their highest attendance since 2012, the first year they played in loanDepot Park formerly known as Marlins Park. Having the Serie Del Caribe in Miami was an excellent choice and made perfect sense after the success of the WBC.

This type of tournament can continue to breathe life into a baseball fanbase that has been hurt and dormant for a very long time. It is not fair to expect a crowd of 30,000 or more at every Marlins game, but the organization can definitely ride the momentum of the Serie Del Caribe into the 2024 MLB season.

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