Venezuela wins Caribbean Series crown
Five straight victories clinches title for Tigres de Aragua
MEXICALI, Mexico -- When Venezuela takes the field at next year's Caribbean Series on its Isle of Margarita, it will do so with even more fervor than what usually accompanies the host country.
There will be loud horns, with sounds that echo throughout the stadium like a freight train filled with hornets. There will be merengue music, out of control cheering and, of course, dancing in the aisles.
It's called ruido, which is Spanish for "noise," and if it sounds like a party, that's because it is.
Defending champions can have that type of effect on a country.
On Friday the Tigres de Aragua topped Mexico's Venados de Mazatlan, 5-3, to win the 2009 Caribbean Series championship with five consecutive victories and one day to play.
It was Venezuela's first Caribbean Series title since 2006, when it played host to the tourney and won it with a 6-0 record. Overall, the country has won seven titles. It was the first Caribbean Series title for the Tigres.
"This is enormous for us and the country," Venezuela manager Buddy Bailey said. "All those league championships we have won have been for the Tigres. This championship is for all of Venezuela."
When the round-robin concludes on Saturday, Venezuela will attempt to finish the series with another perfect record when it squares off against Puerto Rico (1-4) in the matinee. Mexico (3-2) will face the Dominican Republic (1-4) at night in the last game of the series.
"I think we showed Venezuela and all of Latin America that you need more than names to win," said Venezuela's Alex Delgado, who is hitting .455 in the series. "We didn't have the names but it's about how you play on the field and how much heart you have."
The Tigres showed heart -- along with timely hitting.
With the score tied at 2 after six innings, the Tigres took control of the game in the seventh. Shortstop Luis Maza started the inning with a double and came home on a ground ball by center fielder Selwyn Langaigne to push Venezuela ahead by one run.
A single by third baseman Luis Ugueto brought home right fielder Jackson Melian to extend the lead to two runs. Catcher Wilson Ramos scored on Raul Chavez's single to cap off the three-run inning and give Venezuela a comfortable three-run advantage.
Venezuela had a 2-1 advantage when Venados shortstop Heber Gomez led off the bottom of the fifth inning with a double. Center fielder Jon Weber walked, and Gomez advanced to third on a wild pitch on ball four. The next hitter, right fielder Christian Quintero, was called out on strikes to set up a showdown with Venezuela reliever Orber Moreno and Mexico's Adrian Gonzalez.
With two strikes, Gonzalez smashed a single up the middle just under the glove of Tigres second baseman Ramon Castro to drive in Gomez and tie the game at 2.
With Venezuela starter Erick Arteaga on the mound, Mexico scored its first run of the game in the first inning following a double by Christian Quintero. Mexico's right fielder advanced to third base on a wild pitch with Gonzalez at the plate and trotted home when Gonzalez hit a double to center field to give the Venados an early 1-0 lead.
Venezuela answered in the top half of the second inning following consecutive singles by Langaigne and Ramos off Mexico starter Francisco Cordova to start the frame. Ugueto struck out, but the next hitter, Raul Chavez, drove home Langaigne with a single to right field to tie the game. Ramos scooted home on Rodney Medina's single to center field to give the Tigres a one-run advantage.
Tigres closer Francisco Butto gave up one run in the ninth, but recovered to earn his fourth save of the week, a record for the most saves in one Caribbean Series.
"We had opportunities to tie the series but we didn't take advantage of them," Mexico manager Lorenzo Bundy said. "[Venezuela] played more consistent than any team here. They played better than us. They are the champion."
Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.