The Road to Glory

World Series, Game 1. 50 degrees and cloudy by Lake Erie. I wish they’d start at least one Fall Classic matchup before 8:00 pm. I bet the fans in Cleveland and Chicago do, too.

The only Venezuelan news of note in this game is that so far, there is none. Miguel Montero and Willson Contreras left the catching duties to David Ross for the Cubbies, and unless they somehow pull ahead (it’s the fifth inning as I write), then reliever Hector Rondon of Guatire (18 saves) won’t get in the game, either.

I love this–the Cubs refer to 39-year-old Ross as “Grandpa Rossy,” but heck, he played 67 games this season (and brings the mojo of the Red Sox 2013 title with him).  The Cubs troika of receivers set a playoffs mark, by the way–the first time a team that’s had three catchers homer in the post-season. Go on, son.

(updated: Contreras pinch-hit in the Cubs’ no-out, bases-loaded, no-runs choke in the top of the seventh and remained as the catcher for the rest of the game in a double-switch. He got a hit later, and Montero pinch hit unsuccessfully in the ninth, while Rondon gave up a massive home run to Roberto Perez in relief. Oh well. )

Cleveland’s lone criollo player, righty hurler Carlos “Cookie” Carrasco of Barquisimeto, was hurt with two weeks to play in the regular season and won’t return until Spring. The way things are going for the Cookie this season, if the Indians win, he’ll be injured climbing on the victory float.

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Catch Me If You Can

Jose Lobaton hit a tape-measure homer to help Washington even the NLDS with Los Angeles today. Jose is one of a group which may comprise the golden age of Venezuelan catchers in MLB.

In Chicago, Miguel Montero has kindly and professionally made way for Willson (yes, two “l’s”) Contreras; in Boston, Sandy Leon had a very good season as a platoon man behind the plate (78 games, .310), and of course, Salvador Pérez has already won three Gold Gloves and a World Series in Kansas City.

Lobaton is seeing action because of a catastrophic knee injury to Wilson (one “l,” please) Ramos, who set career highs in all batting categories in the nation’s capital this year. Just a few seasons ago, the Nats had three Venezuelan catchers, highly suspicious for a team so close to the White House.

In Seattle, Jesus Sucre and Jesus Montero (insert inappropriate religious joke here) have had various stints behind the plate, as well, with more limited success than the above-mentioned backstops. If you’re confused by all these guys with similar names, you can bet the next great Venezuelan catcher may just be named Jesus Wilson Montero.

We don’t know where this pipeline of catching talent will stop, but for now there’s a decent chance the catcher for the World Series champion may once again be from Venezuela.

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Zeke to the Rescue, Gorkys on Tap

Last night, while the headlines were made by Toronto’s Dominican Bash Brothers, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, the game remained tied after nine because of Ezequiel Carrera’s fifth-inning RBI. Now Toronto will move on to Texas, with whom they had a memorable dust-up in May. There’s some animus there dating to last October’s Bautista bat-flipping, so it should be interesting.

Tonight in the Big Apple, while all eyes are on the pitching matchup between Madison Bumgarner and Noah Syndergaard, VZbaseball will be watching Mets’ Comeback Player of the Year candidate Asdrubal Cabrera (23 HR, .280). The Mets shut down injured Wilmer Flores last week, so his impact is unknown. The Giants have three part-time Venezuelan players, and in a one-game playoff who knows who we might see: will it be Miranda’s own Ehire Adrianza, a utility infielder wearing #1 who got into 40 games this season; could it be #66, road-seasoned Gorkys Hernandez of Guiria, who made a MLB comeback last year after playing in places like the Mexican League’s Tigres of Quintana RooTigres of Quintana Roo (the closest team to Cozumel and Cancun!); or could we see Gregor Blanco, The White Shark, patrol the outfield in Flushing? Hey, Gregor has his own blog-you gotta love that.

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Venezuelans Gone Wild

Many of you know I don’t like the Wild Card format. To me, it cheapens the playoffs and begs the question, “what is this, hockey?” (10 of 30 MLB teams can now qualify for some sort of playoff spot.) But we’ll quickly assay who’s playing tonight, ’cause they might not be here tomorrow.

The Baltimore Orioles have no Venezuelan players on their playoff roster. There, that was easy.

The host American League WC team, the Toronto Blue  Jays (also from Canada, like hockey!) have a pair of criollos who’ve made it across the northern border in search of fair wages and job opportunities. Dioner Navarro must be happy the White Sox traded him to the Blue Jays at then end of August. The caraqueño started for Toronto behind the plate in 2014 before signing with Chicago in this past off-season.In 16 games after returning north of the border, the switch-hitting backstop hit just .182. Meanwhile, super-sub outfielder Ezequiel Carrera could certainly see time as a late-inning defensive insert, if nothing else. EC had 100 mor plate appearances than last season for the Jays and hit .248 in 110 games. But my colleague Shaun Doyle at “Jays from the Couch” point out that Ezequiel was downright crucial to Toronto’s playoff qualification.

There you have it–your Venezuelans in the A.L. Wild Card matchup. May the best team win, and then get beaten by a team which actually finished first.

Posted in american league east, american league wild card, baltimore orioles, baseball, chicago white sox, jays on the couch, major league baseball playoffs, toronto blue jays, Uncategorized, venezuelan athletes | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Gotham: A Tale of Two Shortstops

The Mets began 2o16 with two Venezuelans vying for the shortstop role. As the season winds down and the playoffs loom, only one may remain.

Wilmer Flores is a Met fan favorite and always will be, if only for his teardrops on trading deadline in 2015:

Don’t cry, Wilmer! The trade didn’t go through.

Wilmer’s had a good, if not great season in 2016–playing first, second, third, and short in a very malleable Met infield. But on September 10, he made the cardinal (not Cardinal) error of sliding head-first into home plate–into A.J. Pierzynski, who was decked out in the traditional catcher/Roman gladiator gear. You’d almost have to say, of course Flores got hurt. And he did, injuring his wrist. He may not be able to add anything to the Mets’ playoff hopes other than the 16 homers he’s already tallied.

Meanwhile, Asdrubal Cabrera has revived his baseball life in Gotham. After bouncing rapidly from Cleveland to Washington to Tampa in two calendar years, A.C. signed with the Mets this off-season and may just tie his career high of 25 homers, set with the Tribe in 2011. A steady veteran influence in his tenth season, he and Jose Reyes actually both dyed their hair blonde, too, in some odd measure of “we once were lost, but now are found” solidarity.

And in what could have been a crushing defeat to Philadelphia, on September 23 Cabrera crushed a walk-off 3-run homer in the home 11th to deliver a crucial win:

Enthusiastic bat-flip, indeed.

Too early to tell yet if the Mets will even be in the playoffs. But the un-natural blonde from Puerto La Cruz has played a key role all season.

For the injury-plagued Mets, 2016 reads like a mix between “Last Man Standing” and “Survivor.” Asdrubal hopes to be on deck, still, as they sail into the storym seas of the Wild Card.

Posted in beisbol venezolano, caracas, national league east, New York Mets, phildelphia phillies, Uncategorized, Valencia Venezuela | Leave a comment

Down to the Wire

Is Williams Pérez the next Big Sexy?

There are three weeks to go in the MLB season. With ten playoff positions in the offing, there’s plenty to play for, and a number of Venezuelans are in the mix.

In the AL West, Félix Abraham Hernández kept the Mariners 3.5 back of a playoff spot with 6 shutout innings of the A’s, one of his favorite victims (23-8 lifetime, 12-3 in Oakland). He had been terrific since returning from injury in July, but then the Rangers hammered him for 6 earned runs  in consecutive starts. An odd year for The King, who’s walked a lot of batters and missed a lot of time with a leg injury. Yet he’s 11-5, no small feat.

In the AL East, Hernandez’ fellow Valenciano, lefty Eduardo Rodriguez, felt the playoff heat at Fenway on Saturday in a first-place showdown with the Jays. Eduardo lost, but only surrendered 2 earned runs across 6 innings as the Sox dropped the game 3-2. Since his June demotion to Pawtucket Eduardo has given up more than 3 earned runs only once in 10 starts, and shaved a solid 4 runs off his ERA.

In the American League Central, Carlos “Cookie” Carrasco continues to flash brilliance on the mound for the front-running Tribe. After missing all of May, the Cookie is at 11-7 and has struck out 11 or more in three starts since returning. In hindsight, the hamstring tweak may see Carlos fresh for the playoffs, an imposing thought for Cleveland’s rivals. He’s won both September starts as Cleveland opened up a 6-game-lead on Detroit.

The Tigers’ best chance is at a Wild Card, and Miguel Cabrera is back on target after missing 40-plus games in 2015: .312, 31 homers and 87 RBI. Right behind him in the lineup at .293/24/76 is 37-year-old Victor Martinez of Ciudad Bolívar

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“No man, you look great!” “Seriously?” photo by Erwin Fernandez.

. Aníbal Sánchez’s baffling 7-13 season had a positive up-tick in two September starts (3 earned runs total), while Francisco Rodriguez’s renaissance continues at Comerica, with 40 saves and counting.

In the National League East, the Braves aren’t playing for a title, but in their last season at Turner Field, a number of them are playing for jobs. Llanero Big Williams Perez, who’s been out with a rotator cuff injury for three months, takes the mound against the Mets today. Williams, of Portuguesa, looks like a young Bartolo Colon, and Atlanta is hoping that he pitches like Big Sexy, too. Braves’ CF Ender Inciarte of Maracaibo is, to me, one of MLB’s most promising young players, with a rifle of a throwing arm, nice speed on the basepaths, and a near-.300 average in two full seasons.

The Mets’ Wilmer Flores and Asdrubal Cabrera, playing a variety of infield spots for the injury-wracked New Yorkers, have helped keep them in the Wild Card hunt with 16 and 19 HRs, respectively.

In Houston, baseball’s smallest player, Jose Altuve, who is 5’6″ and was born on 5-6-90, has somehow dropped all the way to .339, hitting a rough two-week .164 patch. Meanwhile, Marwin González of Puerto Ordaz has played every position for the Astros except RF and C, and acquitted himself well, matching his career-high HRs with 12, as well as a .255 average for the man who wears many gloves.

Texas has opened up a big lead on second-place Houston. Martín Pérez of Guanare is on a temporary upswing, winning his last two starts to even his record at 10-10. But the lefty has had a wildly inconsistent campaign while equaling his career-high in victories. One reasons for the Rangers’ surge is 2B Rougned Odor’s breakout season (30 HRs) and the steady play of Elvis Andrus, “Roogie’s” double-play partner at SS.

 

Posted in american league central, boston red sox, caracas, chicago white sox, felix hernandez, K-Rod, King Felix, latino sports, national league east, New York Mets, new york yankees, roughned odor, rougned odor, strikeout record, texas rangers baseball, Uncategorized, Valencia Venezuela, venezuela, venezuelan athletes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Back in the Race, in a New York Minute

Ronald Torreyes, Wilmer Flores, and Asdrubal Cabrera bring the Gotham squads to the precipice of respectability–and the vaunted Wild Card.

Asdrubal has, in a low-key-veteran way, led the Mets this season, and it’s perhaps no surprise that he was out of the lineup, injured, during their August free-fall to .500. He had 3 homers in the first two games against Philly this weekend but his best work came on the field, backing up Jose Reyes’ miss at third with a diving put-out.Wilmer Flores put Friday’s game out of reach with  a fifth inning grand slam, apparently the only way Bartolo Colón was going to score after hitting a double.

The Phillies won’t win anything this year, but it’s good to see their corps of young Venezuelans getting plenty of playing time: Odubel Herrera, Cesar Hernandez, and Freddy Galvis. The Phillies had a tough weekend in New York, but Galvis took Noah Syndergaard deep on Saturday night for his career-high 14th HR, one of only three Philadelphia hits. Jeanmar Gomez has 34 saves out of the Philly ‘pen.

In Seattle, Félix Hernández is back on his horse and pitched a masterful 7.1 innings in beating the White Sox on Friday. The King has won 7 of 8 starts since returning from injury in late July, and won all 5 August starts.

Miguel Perez had another bad outing, his second in a row. He is defining the”up-and-down season” with an 8-10 record; a few good games, then a couple of stinkers. The past two he’s given up six earned runs. Aníbal Sánchez has had two good starts in a row for Detroit, but sits at 7-12 on the season with a ERA close to 6. Frankie “K-Rod” got his 36th save for the Tigers while Miguel Cabrera (surprise) went on a hitting tear.

Some folks in New York are saying that Ronald Torreyes, whose recent hot streak has earned him the third-base slot in the Bronx, is “generously listed” at 5’10” and 150 lbs. He might be closer to Jose Altuve’s size–as if that’s a bad thing. Three cheers for the little guys. And kudos to Robert Casey @bleednyankeeblu for praising Ronnie.

 

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