Venezuela holds off Puerto Rico as Pablo López dazzles

Photo by Andrea Yanez, DT USA

Miami, Florida – It wasn’t easy but Venezuela held off Puerto Rico 9-6 on the strength of two home runs and an excellent performance from Pablo López. The Venezuelan team jumped all over starting pitcher José Berríos chasing him off in the second. Their bats barraged the opposition with nine runs through the first two innings. Luckily for them, it was enough. The second half saw the Puerto Ricans mount an impressive rally three innings in the making that came up short.

López tossed nearly five frames, two-hitting Puerto Rico striking out six. The former Marlins’ lone blemish is the solo shot from Eddie Rosario in the second. However, once he stepped off the mound the game ceased to be a one-sided affair with momentum steadily swinging in the other direction. P.R. never gave up fighting throughout the night clawing away at the lead until they were finally stopped in the ninth. With the win, Venezuela improves to 2-0 in Pool D as Puerto Rico drops to 1-1.

Powering Up

Venezuela got off to an explosive start, recording four runs on their first trip to the plate. Salvador Perez singled on a line drive to right field knocking in a run gifting his team the early 1-0 advantage. Anthony Santander flexed his muscle, going yard on the first pitch he saw from Berríos smashing a towering three-run dinger.

With runners at the corners and nobody out, Fernando Cruz was called in to stem the tide. He too fell victim to the long ball. Perez homered to left-center field making it 7-0 in favor of Venezuela.

Despite the very early deficit, P.R. responded. Rosario homered to right-center putting his team on the board. It seemed like Venezuela was on the verge of scoring yet another round of runs in the third but Jovani Moran, Puerto Rico’s third pitcher of the evening, caught Ronald Acuña Jr. napping to escape the inning.

David Peralta, the hero of last night’s game, padded Venezuela’s lead with an RBI single scoring Perez in the fourth. Perez came back for more the following frame, doubling on a sharp line drive to center field driving home Acuña to make it 9-1. Reliever Andres Machado took over in the fifth after López exited the contest to a standing ovation. Machado handled Christian Vazquez to close out the inning.

The Rally Begins

In contrast to the score, the matchup was far from over. With Lopez’s departure, Puerto Rico’s bats soon came alive scratching four runs in the sixth. Enrique Hernandez slapped a sharp ground ball deflected by third baseman Eduardo Escobar allowing Vimael Machin to cross the plate on the play. With nobody out, Machado walked MJ Melendez to load ’em prompting a pitching change, bringing in Jhoulys Chacín. P.R. continued to chop away at the lead with an RBI single from Emmanuel Rivera followed by another run via the Javier Báez groundout. Further, Rosario helped reduce the deficit with a sac fly scoring Melendez.

Venezuela’s lead shrank further at the bottom of the eighth. Melendez ripped an RBI double as the team clawed away creeping closer and closer. It’s the furthest they’d get. The final inning saw Silvino Bracho retire all three hitters erasing any hope of late-game drama.


When I looked over the schedule, there were two games I circled. This was one of them. By the way, for those who are wondering, the other is Wednesday night’s dogfight between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Venezuela rode into the ballpark fired up after beating D.R. for the first time in WBC history. Additionally, both teams knew the stakes with the winner being in an excellent position to be among those who advanced to the quarter-final.

In spite of everything that went down my only surprise was how fast Venezuela took control. They absolutely lit up Puerto Rico forcing Yadier Molina to call on his bullpen. I fully expected the rally and boy did it make things interesting. Pablo pitching a quality gem at loanDepot park was a nostalgic sight. He was dialed in looking very comfortable in an important game. Especially when you throw in the type of run support he isn’t used to. Subsequently, the duel between Puerto Rico and Pablo López has been my favorite aspect of the WBC so far.


Photo | Andrea Yanez, DT USA

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