Francisco Liriano lifts Escogido Leones
SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic -- Francisco Liriano walked four and struck out five while Andy Dirks drove in the game-winning run for the second consecutive night to lead the Dominican Republic's Escogido Leones to a 2-0 win over Mexico's Ciudad Obregon Yaquis in the Caribbean Series Sunday night.
Escogido clinched at least a share of the title with the win. Escogido's win puts its record at 4-0 with Obregon, the defending champion, dropping to 2-2, while Venezuela's Aragua Tigres and Puerto Rico's Mayaguez Indios are at 1-3 with two games to play.
If Escogido wins one of its remaining two games -- on Monday against Aragua or Tuesday against Mayaguez -- it will clinch its second Caribbean Series title in three years and become the first to do it at its home stadium since 2005. The Caribbean Series features the four champion clubs from the Caribbean winter leagues.
Pablo Ozuna followed with a ground ball to first that was bobbled by first baseman Barbaro Canizares and allowed Constanza to move to third. Dirks, who drove in the game-winning run in Saturday night's game against Puerto Rico, followed with a fielder's choice ground ball to second base to give the Leones a 1-0 advantage.
Liriano flirted with disaster in the first as he walked Obregon's Chris Roberson and Alex Amezaga to open the game and after striking out Karim Garcia, he walked Canizares to load the bases with one out. Liriano escaped however by getting Carlos Valencia to ground into a double play.
Escogido tagged on another run in the top of the ninth after Fernando Tatis laid down a perfect bunt on a squeeze play that scored Freddy Guzman, who had come on as a pinch runner after Erick Almonte opened the inning by drawing a walk from reliever Cesar Carrillo.
Pino stifles Aragua TigresIn the early game, Yohan Pino (1-0) held Puerto Rico's Mayaguez Indios to two hits over six innings to lead Venezuela's Aragua Tigres to a 7-0 victory -- their first of the Series.
Pino, a 28-year-old prospect in the Toronto Blue Jays system, kept Puerto Rico's batters off balance with a nice array of breaking balls and fastballs as he struck out two and yielded no walks.
Aragua took the lead in the first inning after Puerto Rico starter Hiram Burgos (0-1) gave up a base on balls to Jorge Cortes to lead off the game. Miguel Rojas followed with an infield single and they both advanced on a sacrifice by Cesar Suarez and after a flyout by Adonis Garcia, Luis Jimenez delivered a clutch single which scored Cortes from third.
The wheels came off for Mayaguez's defense in the seventh. After two outs and Cortes on first base, Rojas hit a solid line drive to left field off reliever Juan Padilla for a single, but the ball went right through Mayaguez left fielder Edgar Baez's legs for an error, which allowed Cortes to score. Rojas also scored after Mayaguez shortstop Irving Falu overthrew to third in effort to get Rojas, who was trying to extend the play.
Aragua added four more runs in the eighth off reliever Saul Rivera, who gave up a single to Jimenez, a double to Edgardo Alfonzo and a walk to Luis Maza. After an Alex Nunez fielder's choice, which resulted in an out at the plate, Luis Hernandez rifled a triple to the left field corner which cleared the bases. Hernandez scored himself on a wild pitch.
Caribbean Series notesFormer major league infielder Neifi Perez, who played 12 seasons with Colorado, Kansas City, the Chicago Cubs, San Francisco and Detroit, threw out the first pitch of the night game. ... Perez and former St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Joaquin Andujar were inducted into the Caribbean Series Hall of Fame this week. ... Pedro Martinez is expected to be on hand on Monday to throw the first pitch. ... Cuban outfielder Adonis Garcia, playing here with Venezuela's Aragua Tigres, is expected to be granted residency in Venezuela and be available to become a free agent by February 9.
Javier Maymi covers baseball for ESPNdeportes.com.