(Story by Marco Stoovelaar)
Cardenales and Caribes to meet in Venezuelan Final
BARQUISIMETO / MARACAY / VALENCIA (Venezuela) -
Cardenales de Lara and Caribes de Azoátegui will meet each other in the best-of-seven Championship Final of the Liga Venezolana de Béisbol Profesional (LVBP).
The two teams needed seven games in their Semi-Finals to reach the Final.
On Wednesday (January 20), Cardenales won Game 7 against Tigres de Aragua.
On the same evening, Caribes won the deciding seventh game against Navegantes del Magallanes.
Cardenales qualified for the fifth consecutive time for the Final, which opens on Friday-evening.
The Venezuelan Winter League opened on November 27 and all eight teams (two divisions of four) played 40 games, including inter-division games.
In the División Occidental (Western Division), reigning champion Cardenales de Lara finished in first place with a 25-15 record.
Navegantes del Magallanes ended up in second place and was 21-16.
Caribes de Azoátegui, which celebrates its 30th anniversary in the league this year, finished in first place in the División Central with a 24-16 record, followed by Tigres de Aragua, which was 17-20.
Tigres had to wait until midnight on Sunday, January 10 (the final day of the regular season) to secure their place in the Play-Offs.
At that moment, Tigres won 9-4 against Cardenales in the second game of a double-header after having lost the first game with an 11-4 score.
With that, Tigres won its 17th game of the regular season, one more than third placed Tiburones de La Guaira.
Tigres had three games remaining in the season, but because of the win, it was not needed to make them up.
Even when the team would have lost these three games, it would finish with a 17-23 record, which is better than the 16-24 record of Tiburones.
Navegantes also needed one more win to qualify for the Play-Offs.
Like Tigres, the team played 37 instead of 40 games.
Navegantes had lost three games in a row, but on Saturday (January 9), the needed win came.
After losing the first game of a double-header against Tiburones with a 5-4 score, the team won the second game, 6-5.
With the win, Navegantes improved its record to 21-16 to finish ahead of third placed Bravos de Margarita (20-20).
Caribes vs. Navegantes
In the opener of this Semi-Final on Wednesday (January 13), at Estadio José Perez Colmenares in Maracay, the home-playing Caribes was outhit 15-14, but won 12-9.
Caribes trailed 5-0 halfway the fourth inning, then scored twice and followed with two 5-run rallies in the fifth and sixth at bat to take a 12-5 lead.
Navegantes scored four runs in the seventh and eighth inning combined, but ended up short.
Designated hitter Oswaldo Arcia batted in six runs for Caribes, including four with a 2-out grand slam homerun in the fifth inning.
In Game 2, Navegantes broke an 1-1 tie in the fourth inning.
Brazilian third baseman Leonardo Reginatto then led off with a single and scored on a 2-out single by Alberth Martínez to win 2-1.
In 2013, Reginatto played for Brazil in the World Baseball Classic.
Navegantes used five pitchers, who didn't strike a batter.
Navegantes also won the third game, 4-1, which was played at Estadio José Bernardon Pérez in Valencia.
Leading 2-1, the home-team decided the game by scoring twice in the eighth inning when Danry Vasquez and Renato Núñez both homered.
Leonardo Reginatto homered for the team in the first inning.
Caribes equaled the Semi-Final by winning Game 4 with a convincing 11-2 score.
The team rallied four runs in the fifth and added five runs in the final three at bats.
Caribes collected 19 basehits, including five by Willians Astudillo, who also homered and batted in two runs.
Rafael Ortega also homered.
Navegantes recorded a big 13-5 win in Game 5.
The team got 15 basehits, including homeruns by Danny Vasquez and Renato Nuñez.
Leonardo Reginatto scored four runs, while Vasquez batted in six runs.
On Tuesday, back in Maracay, Caribes recorded an 8-2 win to equal the Semi-Final at 3-3.
In this game, Caribes trailed 2-0, then scored four runs in both the fifth and seventh inning.
Ali Castillo batted in three runs and scored once.
Caribes then also won the deciding seventh game on Wednesday, 10-4.
This time, Caribes scored a run in the first inning, then struck with a 6-run rally in the third at bat and added three more in the fourth.
Rafael Ortega was 3-for-4 with a homerun, scored three runs and batted in two.
Willians Astudillo collected three basehits, while Oswaldo Arcia also homered and Ali Castillo batted in three runs.
Astudillo was named Most Valuable Player.
Cardenales vs. Tigres
At Estadio Antonio Herrera Gutierrez in Barquisimeto, defending champion and home-playing Cardenales nipped Tigres 7-6 in its opening game and was outhit 14-11.
Cardenales led 3-1 after five innings, then Navegantes came alongside in the sixth.
Cardenales re-took the lead (4-3) in the seventh, but Navegantes then rallied for three runs in the top of the eighth.
Moments later, now trailing 6-4, it was Cardenales that scored three runs in its eighth at bat to take the lead for the third time.
Carlos Rivero hit a lead-off homerun for Cardenales in the eighth inning.
With two outs and the bases loaded (after an intentional walk), César Hernández singled to bring in two runs and give Cardenales a 7-6 lead.
Tigres took an early lead in the second game, but scored the deciding runs in the ninth to win 5-.4
The team led 3-0 after three innings, then Cardenales scored in the fourth and seventh inning.
Cardenales took a 4-3 lead by scoring twice in the eighth.
Now trailing, Tigres came back in the top of the ninth.
With the bases loaded and no outs, two runs were scored when a grounder by Roel Santos ended in an error.
In a high-scoring third game, Cardenales recorded a 19-10 victory, but was outhit 19-12 in Estadio José Pérez Colmenares in Maracay.
Remarkably enough, no homeruns were hit in this crazy game.
Cardenales rallied for six runs in the second inning and led 6-3 after four at bats, but then it was Tigres that staged a 6-run rally in the fifth.
After eight innings, Tigres led 10-8, but then Cardenales scored eleven runs in the top of the ninth!
Cuban Yordanys Linares had three basehits, scored three runs and batted in three for Cardenales.
Carlos Rivero also had three hits.
Centerfielder Roel Santos was 5-for-5 for Tigres with one double and two triples, scored twice and batted in five runs.
Ramon Flores and Leobaldo Pina both had three basehits for Tigres, which used eleven pitchers.
Cardenales inserted eight pitchers.
Cardenales took a 3-1 lead in its Semi-Final by winning 8-4 in Game 4.
Trailing 2-1, Cardenales scored three runs in the seventh, then added four more runs in the next two at bats.
Gorkys Hernández was 3-for-5, including a 3-run homerun, which gave his team the lead in the seventh.
Hernan Pérez homered for Tigres.
Tigres avoided elimination by winning Game 5 with a 6-4 score.
The team rallied for three runs in both the first and seventh inning.
Ramon Cabrera was 3-for-4 for Tigres and batted in four runs.
The series returned to Barquisimeto for Game 6 and Tigres then also forced a seventh game by winning 7-1.
The team broke an 1-1 tie in the sixth inning, then scored four runs in the seventh.
Tigres collected 12 basehits, including four by designated hitter Henry Alejandro Rodríguez, who hit a grand slam homerun in the seventh.
Winning pitcher Guillermo Moscoso gave up only two basehits in the seven innings he threw.
In the seventh game on Wednesday, Cardenales came back with a convincing 11-2 score.
The team rallied for five runs in the fourth inning and collected 20 basehits.
Short stop Ildemaro Vargas was 5-for-6, scored twice and batted in two runs.
Centerfielder Yordanys Linares was 4-for-4 and scored three runs.
Carlos Rivero contributed with a 2-run homerun.