Cabrera has big night for Venezuela
JUPITER, Fla. -- Inspired to honor his president, Miguel Cabrera looked to be in midseason form Tuesday night.
Cabrera homered among his three hits and had four RBIs, but Venezuela, playing hours after the death of President Hugo Chavez, lost to the Miami Marlins 6-5 in a tune-up for the World Baseball Classic.
"It was hard to concentrate," Cabrera said. "We had to win. This was our promise to the country."
Cabrera's two-out, two-run homer down the left-field line off Jordan Smith in the seventh gave Venezuela a 5-3 lead. The reigning AL MVP and Triple Crown winner also had two doubles, including one that scored two runs in a three-run first.
"He's the best player in baseball right now. It's very good we have him on this side," manager Luis Sojo said. "He's a great hitter. He wants to be here and he wants to show everyone that Venezuela's ready to win the WBC."
Sojo's squad was taking pregame batting practice when players heard that Chavez had died.
"He was a baseball man," Sojo said after the loss. "At the World Baseball Classic in 2006 and 2009, the first call in the morning was his. And after the game, he used to call me, too. It's a very sad moment for our country. We wish the best to his family, we know they are going through a tough time right now."
Chavez died Tuesday at age 58 after a nearly two-year fight against cancer.
"It's sad what's happening to our country," Cabrera said. "We send our condolences to his family. This is something you don't wish on anybody.
"I don't know how his family is right now. He's no longer with us -- it's very sad. I cannot comment a lot on it because I feel a lot of pain, and I'm not there in Venezuela."
Pitcher Carlos Zambrano said he hoped his fellow Venezuelans would come together.
"I'm very sad. I ask that the Venezuela people stay calm," Zambrano said. "We have to understand that the president had a family. He's a human being and it's sad. We send him the condolences to the Chavez family. We know it's a difficult moment. This caught us by surprise."
Sojo's team will play the New York Mets on Wednesday afternoon before flying to Puerto Rico where Venezuela open WBC play against the Dominican Republic on Thursday.
"The players are ready," Sojo said. "I don't have a doubt that I have a team that's will battle and that's prepared for whatever we have in front of us. I'm very optimistic."
Zambrano, a former Marlins right-hander, started with two scoreless innings for Venezuela. Henderson Alvarez then retired his Miami teammates 1-2-3 in the third.
"I feel good. Everything was strong. I kept the ball down," said Zambrano, who has not signed with a major league team for 2013.
"I have a couple of offers, but not offers that I want. I think the WBC is a good opportunity for me to prove something."
Wade LeBlanc, competing for the fifth spot in Miami's rotation, gave up three runs -- two earned -- and seven hits in 2 2/3 innings.
"A lot of those guys played winter ball. They're ready to roll," LeBlanc said of Venezuela. "So I can't really lose too much confidence."
Miami's Chris Coghlan had four hits, including two doubles, and scored three runs.
NOTES: Marlins manager Mike Redmond said 3B Placido Polanco (back stiffness) was expected to play Wednesday against St. Louis. Redmond also said 3B-PH Greg Dobbs (strained calf) would be sidelined a few days. ... A Venezuela spokesman said the team had requested a pre-game moment of silence for Chavez and asked that flags be flown at half-staff, but was told all parties involved -- the Marlins, Major League Baseball and Roger Dean Stadium -- were not prepared to do so.
Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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