Puerto Rico wins 6th straight in WBC, routs Venezuela 13-2
SAN DIEGO (AP) — Carlos Correa, Carlos Beltran and Team Puerto Rico are heading up the freeway in fine shape.
Already assured a spot in the World Baseball Classic semifinals, Puerto Rico beat Venezuela 13-2 Saturday for its sixth straight tournament win. Mike Aviles got four hits and drove in three runs to pace the team’s 17-hit attack at Petco Park.
“Ever since we started practicing in Arizona, we have visualized doing what we need to do,” Puerto Rico manager Edwin Rodriguez said. “We need to complete the uncompleted task from 2013.”
Puerto Rico, runner-up to the Dominican Republic in the 2013 WBC, will play the Netherlands on Monday night at Dodger Stadium.
“We’re focused to do what we are here to do,” Rodriguez said. “We’ve done our celebrating and now we go to LA.”
Kennys Vargas hit a two-run homer and Angel Pagan added a double and two singles. A day earlier, Correa, Beltran and Yadier Molina helped Puerto Rico hold off the United States 6-5.
“I feel super great,” said Vargas, who was among the backup Puerto Rico players getting a chance on Saturday. “It’s great to help the team offensively so we can obtain our goal.”
Starter Jose De Leon pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings for the win. Martin Perez took the loss.
“That’s the first time I had seen Jose pitch live,” Rodriguez said. “I am very impressed with his fastball and his secondary pitches. He will be pitching in the big leagues this year, I am confident of that.”
Venezuela lost to Puerto Rico for the second time in this year’s WBC. It fell 11-0 in an abbreviated first-round game shortened because of the mercy rule.
“I think we didn’t play the baseball that I expected or that people expected,” Venezuela manager Omar Vizquel said. “Sincerely, we thought we were going to play better ball.”
Puerto Rico put the game out of reach with a five-run seventh after Venezuela pulled to within 5-2 on Rougned Odor’s two-run homer in the sixth.
“One of the qualities of the team is the profound commitment it has,” Rodriguez said. “They played well and showed off quite a bit. That is the beauty of our team.”
Reymond Fuentes’ RBI double and Pagan’s run-scoring single made it 5-0 in the sixth.
“Everyone has a role,” Rodriguez said about some of his reserves coming through. “No one is here on vacation. Everyone has role and understands their role.”
Aviles’ two-out single pushed Puerto Rico to a 3-0 lead in the fifth. Correa, who had walked for the second time, scored on the hit.
Correa doubled in the third and scored an unearned run when T. J. Rivera’s slow roller to the right side was fielded cleanly by first baseman Hernan Perez, who made an errant throw to Martin Perez at first.
Venezuela loaded with the bases loaded and one out in the second. Hernan Perez lifted a shallow fly ball to left, but Victor Martinez was late returning to third base to tag up. Martinez attempted to score, but he was an easy out at the plate on Pagan’s throw.
It was another indicator things weren’t going to go Venezuela’s way.
“Clearly the group I led was extraordinary,” Vizquel said. “They allowed me to do my job, and obviously, things didn’t turn out the way we wanted to.”
Rodriguez is surprised the way Puerto Rico has shined during the tournament.
“I expected us to do well, but the level of competition here is very high,” he said. “I knew we were going to have a good team but I don’t know if I expected us to do this well.”