By Leif Skodnick
World Baseball Network
Earning the top seed in the semifinals at the Caribbean Series doesn’t amount to a hill of frijoles if you can’t get the job done in the elimination game.
Mexico’s Caneros de Los Mochis learned that lesson the hard way, falling to the Dominican Republic 8-3 in the semifinal after earning the top seed for the elimination phase of the Caribbean Series.
The Dominican Republic, represented by LIDOM champion Tigres del Licey, will try to win their third Caribbean Series title in the last four years Friday night. Tigres del Licey has won 10 Caribbean Series titles, more than any other
For Mexico, which went 5-2 through the opening round of the Caribbean Series and earned the top seed, the loss only stings more considering that their bullpen held the D.R. scoreless over four innings on the first day of the series a 5-4 come-from-behind win.
Former Mets farmhand Matt Pobereyko went just 3.2 innings as Mexico’s starter, allowing four runs on six hits and walking two, and the Caneros’ bullpen wasn’t much better. Fabian Cota allowed one run on three hits in 1.1 innings pitched and Samuel Zazueta allowed two runs on a homer by Kelvin Gutierrez.
The Dominican Republic got on the board in the top of the first when Mel Rojas Jr. hit a sac fly to left that scored Robinson Cano, and added another in the second on Gustavo Nunez’ RBI single that scored Ivan Herrera.
In the top of the fourth, Emilio Bonifacio, the LIDOM’s round robin MVP, looped a double into short right field, scoring Luis Barrera and sending Pobereyko to the showers.
Fabian Cota came on to pitch for Mexico, and promptly walked Yamaico Navarro, loading the bases for Henry Urrutia, who singled to right, scoring Bonifacio and Cano to make it 5-0 before Navarro was tagged out at third, ending the inning.
Julian Ornelas’ bases-loaded single got Mexico on the board in the bottom of the fourth when Roberto Valenzuela came home. The next batter, Jasson Otondo, hit a sac fly that scored Rodolfo Amador, cutting the Dominican Republic’s lead to 5-3.
But the Dominican Republic wasn’t done.
After Mel Rojas, jr. drew a five-pitch walk to lead off the top of the seventh, Gutierrez launched a home run over the left field wall to extend the lead to 7-2.
Starter Esmil Rogers went six innings for the Dominican Republic, allowing five hits and two runs, striking out three and walking three. Keury Mella allowed one hit pitching a shutout inning in the seventh before yielding the mound to Jesus Liranzo. Liranzo walked Reynaldo Rodriguez and allowed a one-out single by Joey Terdoslavich in the bottom of the eighth before getting the hook.
Jonathan Aro got out of the inning, getting Ornelas to hit a sac fly to left that scored Rodriguez to make it a 7-3 game before striking out Otondo on five pitches. Aro then retired all three batters he faced in the ninth inning to close out the win for the D.R., which got the fourth seed in the semifinals over Panama via tie-break criteria.
The Dominican Republic will play in the championship game Friday night at 6:30 p.m. ET at La Rinconada, while Mexico will play in the third place game at La Rinconada at 1:30 p.m. Both games will be available on ESPN Deportes and ESPN+.