Yasiel Puig of Tiburones de la Guaira of Venezuela licks his bat in the fifth inning of a game between Venezuela and Dominican Republic at loanDepot park as part of the Serie del Caribe 2024 on February 1, 2024 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Luis Gutierrez/Norte Photo/Getty Images)
By Conor Liguori
World Baseball Network
MIAMI- On Thursday night, the Tiburones de La Guaria defeated the Tigres del Licey 3-1 in the third game on the first day of the 2024 Caribbean Series at loanDepotPark in Miami, Florida.
Both teams put on a good show in the nightcap in the most anticipated matchup of the day between the Tigres del Licey of the Dominican Republic and the Tiburones de La Guaria of Venezuela.
Before game time, fans of both organizations flooded the Miami streets, waving their native countries’ flags and blowing horns. Before the first pitch, there was a sense of anticipation and excitement buzzing throughout the stadium. Inside the stadium, fans seated near field level played drums as their favorite team’s starting lineup was announced.
Dominican Republic lead-off hitter Emilio Bonifacio laid a bunt in the bottom of the first for the game’s first hit. Still, the game’s first run was scored during the top of the third on an RBI single by center fielder Alexi Amarista to give Venezuela a 1-0 lead.
Starting pitchers Raul Valdes of the Dominican Republic and Miguel Romero of Venezuela kept hitters off balance throughout the contest’s first half.
Valdes, 46, does not throw hard but used a hefty dose of changeups during his 4.1 innings on the bump. Jonathan Aro replaced Valdes in the top of the fifth inning after he allowed a one-out single to Amarista. The lefty allowed one earned run and struck out three in the start.
Miguel Romero was excellent in his first 2024 Caribbean Series start for Venezuela, allowing one earned run and just three hits in 5.1 innings. On his way back to the dugout, he received a well-deserved ovation from the crowd.
Venezuela right fielder Ramon Flores laced an RBI single to center field in the top of the sixth to extend the lead to 2-0, but two runners were left stranded to end the frame one batter later.
Robinson Cano got the scoring started for the Dominican Republic in the bottom of the sixth, hitting a sacrifice fly to deep center field to cut Venezuela’s lead to 2-1. The DR threatened to tie the game with runners on first and third and two outs, but no additional runs would score.
In the bottom of the seventh inning, pinch hitter Hector Rodriguez flew out to right field to strand two more Dominican Republic runners, helping Venezuela maintain a one-run lead into the eighth inning.
Yasiel Puig was due second in the top of the eighth and hit a majestic moonshot over the left field wall to put Venezuela ahead 3-1. Puig has not played in Major LeagueBaseball since 2019 but remains one of the more exhilarating players in professional baseball.
Arnoldo Hernandez came into the game for Venezuela in the bottom of the ninth and retired three Dominican Republic hitters in order to secure the victory.
The Dominican Republic (0-1) will play its next game on Friday, Feb. 2, at 3:30 p.m. EST against Nicaragua. Venezuela (1-0) does not play Friday and will play their next game on Saturday, Feb. 3 at 10:30 a.m. EST against Curacao. Both games will be televised live on ESPN+.