Monday, February 1, 2016

Opportunistic Greene, Venados beat Dominicans, 3-2, in Caribbean Series opener

Mazatlan centerfielder Justin Greene (pictured) singled and scored twice, including the eventual game-winner, as the Venados opened their schedule at the 2016 Caribbean Series with a 3-2 win over Dominican champion Escogido Monday in Santo Domingo.  The game was hard-fought throughout with strong pitching on both sides, but it was defensive miscues by the host Leones that held the door open for the Venados win.

Mazatlan took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second when Cyle Hankerd stroked a leadoff single up the middle, moved to second on Yuniesky Betacourt walk, advanced to third on Olmo Rosario's fielder's choice grounder to shortstop (with Betancourt getting forced at second) and came in to score when Esteban Quiroz' tapper back to the mound drew a throwing error from Escogido pitcher Greg Reynolds.

The Venados added a run in the third after Greene punched a one-out grounder that eluded Leones shortstop Pedro Lopez for an infield single.  The former Chisox and Arizona farmhand then streaked to third when Chris Roberson's soft liner landed safely in right field for a single.  After Hankerd walked to fill the bases, Betancourt hit a grounder to Leones third baseman Pedro Ciriaco, who had to settle for throwing to second to force Hankerd after having no play to make against Greene, who'd streaked across home plate to make it a 2-0 game.

Escogido came back with a pair of runs against Mazatlan starter Hector Rodriguez in the bottom of the third inning when Leury Garcia lined a ball to right center field that eluded both Greene in center and Jeremias Pineda in right for a two-run, inside-the-park homer to tied the score up.

Another boo-boo by the Leones defense led to Mazatlan's winning run in the top of the fifth. Greene and Roberson led off the frame with back-to-back singles off Reynolds, who was then pulled in favor of Edgar Garcia.  Betancourt then hit a double-play grounder to Lopez at short, who made the toss to Garcia at second to force Roberson but Garcia then threw the ball past first baseman Diory Hernandez, allowing Greene to cover ground and scamper home for the Venados' third and final run of the game.

It was then left to the Mazatlan bullpen to hold the Leones at bay the rest of the night, with closer Steven Hensley getting pinch-hitter Jimmy Paredes to hit a grounder to Hankerd at first for the final out of the night, earning Hensley the save and the Venados the win.  Rodriguez allowed two runs on Garcia's homer over five innings, striking out five for the win, while Terance Marin contributed two no-hit innings in relief for Mazatlan.  Reynonlds suffered the loss for Escogido and was carged with all three Venados runs over four-pus innings.  Greene and Roberson each had two hits for Mazatlan while rightfielder Zoilo Almonte went 2-for-4 for the Leones, who went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.

In Monday's other Caribbean Series opener, Venzuela's Aragua Tigres held off Santurce of Puerto Rico, 2-1, as Jose Martinez' second-inning triple scored Felix Perez and Dariel Alvarez to back up Freddy Garcia's six innings of one-run pitching.

The Venados will be back Tuesday at 2:30PM Eastern time when they take on Ciego de Avila, the defending Cuban National Series champion who currently hold the best record in the 16-team circuit.