Loan Depot Park was rocking and dancing. A crowd of 27,388 packed the downtown Miami stadium to see the maximum champions in the Series’ history, Tigres del Licey, face a team that had not won a Series game in 38 years, Tiburones de la Guaira and they were treated to a classic. It has been an exciting Winter season for both teams. Thursday night was a hard-fought game in which one team was held scoreless from the get-go and tried to make a late comeback. Sound familiar? That is because all games followed a similar pattern on the first day of the Caribbean Series. One team had trouble getting their offense going, had a pitcher that kept them close, and then made a valiant attempt at a comeback. The difference?
Pitching and defense dominated the first part of the game, as runs were scarce through the first five frames. Venezuela’s pitching held the Dominican powerhouse scoreless. It provided enough offense to enter the fifth inning with a slim 2-0 lead, thanks to a superb performance from La Guaira’s pitcher Miguel Romero, who went 5.1 innings, giving up only one run, and offense provided by RBI singles from Alexi Amarista and Jerez.
Having been held to only two hits into the sixth inning, Licey began to take better swings against Romero, forcing Ozzie Guillen to use his bullpen. In the end, the Venezuelan team’s bullpen was able to preserve the lead thanks to superb relief work from Jorgan Cavinero. Licey threatened again in the seventh, and the Venezuelan bullpen again preserved the lead, this time on fine relief work from Silvino Bracho.
Into the later innings, the game kept its tense pace until former MLB All-Star Yasiel Puig launched a 416 ft Home Run into the Miami night to give his team a two-run cushion. Licey attempted to make a comeback, but stellar bullpen work from La Guaira and great defense from their first baseman Leonardo Reginatto kept the Venezuelan league champions ahead in the score. A perfect ninth inning by Venezuela closer Arnaldo Hernandez secured the win for LaGuaira.
After the game, Licey manager Gilbert Gomez stated that adjustments needed to be made since his team did not come up with the big hit when they needed it. He also proceeded to give credit to the Venezuela bullpen for executing their pitches. The Venezuela bullpen was also praised by manager Ozzie Guillen, who stated that the bullpen has his complete confidence. One of the game heroes, Yasiel Puig, expressed excitement about the opportunity to homer in an MLB stadium once again. His manager also praised Puig as Guillen stated, “I watch a lot of MLB games throughout the year, and I can tell you, there is no reason Puig should not be allowed to play in MLB.” Guillen is not resting on his achievements, as he also assured, “We expect to play Licey again.”
La Guaira will have no time to celebrate as they prepare to play their next game on Saturday against Curacao. On the other hand, Licey must quickly adjust their offense as they play Nicaragua tomorrow. “They will come to play us hard,” Gomez stated. “We have to make our adjustments and play them tough tomorrow.”