Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Bullpen, bottom of order pace Mazatlan win over Cubans at Caribbean Series

Mazatlan's bullpen and the bottom four hitters in their batting order came through in Tuesday's 9-3 win over Cuban champion Ciego de Avila at the Caribbean Series in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.  The win gives the Venados a 2-0 record in the four-game, round-robin stage of the annual showcase of Latin winter baseball.

The Venados drew first blood in the bottom of the second inning when Sebastian Valle (pictured) lined a bases-loaded double to center off Ciego de Avila starter Yoanni Yera that brought in all three runners to give the Venados a 3-0 advantage.  Mazatlan then plated single runs in the third on a Cyle Hankerd solo homer to left and in the fourth on a Ramon Urias RBI single to make it a commanding 5-0 lead.

Gamboa actually pitched decently through five innings, holding the Tigres scoreless despite having to pitch out of a jam in the fifth, but the wheels came off his wagon in the top of the sixth after he gave up a leadoff double to Yulieski Gourriel and, two outs later, four consecutive singles by Ariel Borrero, Jose Adolis Peres, Yorbis Borroto and Lourdes Gourriel, Junior that resulted in three runs for the Cubans.  That was enough to cause Venados skipper to bring his hook to the mound and replace Gamboa with Jovany Lopez, who retired Yoelvis Fiss on a swinging strikeout with runners on second and third.

Yuniesky Betancourt brought Mazatlan's lead to 6-3 in the bottom of the sixth by coming in from third on a bases-loaded walk to Jeremias Pineda, and the Venados put the contest in their hip pocket with three more scores in a seventh that saw Betancourt whack a run-scoring double and Valle bopping a two-bagger of his own that brought in two more runs.  Roberto Espinosa struck out Cuban stalwarts Yulieski Gourriel and Alfredo Despaigne in the top of the ninth to close out the win.

Espinosa was one of four Mazatlan relievers to combine for 3.1 innings of two-hit shutout pitching after Gamboa tossed 5.2 frames and let in three runs on eight hits to earn the win.  The bottom four batters in the Venados order combined to go 7-for-11 with six runs and seven RBI's, with Betancourt and Esteban Quiroz each scoring three times and Valle driving in five runs with his two doubles.

Mazatlan will face the Venezuelan champion Aragua Tigres at 2:30PM Eastern time Wednesday and get an off day Thursday before closing out the first round Friday against Puerto Rico's Santurce Cangrejeros.