Venezuela rides over Italy to next round
Four-run fourth, four homers in fifth more than enough for easy win
By David Singh / Special to MLB.com
On Tuesday at Rogers Centre, the Venezuelans cemented that thought, as they belted a record four home runs in the fifth inning en route to a dominating 10-1 win over the Italians. The victory not only guaranteed Venezuela a spot in the second round of the Classic, but it also set up a rematch against the U.S. on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. ET to determine the Pool C winner.
In the fifth inning of Tuesday's contest, Venezuela made Classic history, as Bobby Abreu and Miguel Cabrera launched back-to-back home runs, followed later by Jose Lopez and Ramon Hernandez, who did the very same.
The four home runs, which ignited the Venezuelan crowd in attendance, were the most in an inning during Classic play.
Abreu said that he had never seen such a display of power, noting that it certainly was a special sight.
"It is, especially in this kind of competition," Abreu said. "You're just looking to win the games, but you never expect something to happen like it happened tonight."
In all reality, the home runs were just the icing on the cake for a Venezuelan squad that is tearing the cover off the ball. In its three Classic games this year, Venezuela has batted a combined .355 (38-for-107) and scored a total of 23 runs.
Such figures are a colossal improvement over Venezuela's hitting during the '06 Classic, when it struggled to a collective .186 average over six games.
"The last Classic, we didn't really hit, and our pitchers were doing such a good job," said Abreu. "In this one, we've scored a lot of runs every game.
"In these short competitions, you need to score runs, you need to help your pitchers. ... When we score runs, they feel more comfortable on the mound and anything can happen."
On Tuesday, the Venezuelan pitchers certainly were comfortable. Starter Enrique Gonzalez was masterful in retiring nine of the 12 batters he faced. Besides hitting a batter, the 26-year-old, who is currently in the Red Sox organization, allowed just two hits over his four innings.
The Venezuelan bullpen followed suit, posting five innings of solid relief. Ramon Ramirez, Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez and Victor Moreno combined to allow just four hits and one run.
In its batting order, eight of Venezuela's nine starters notched hits, while six different players collected RBIs. However, according to Venezuelan manager Luis Sojo, the offensive surge was vital, because it seemed to get Cabrera (3-for-4, one double and one homer) and Magglio Ordonez (2-for-4, one double) on the right track. The sluggers had been hitless during the first two games of the tournament.
"[Cabrera] came through today," Sojo said. "I mean, that's one of the guys we need to have ready for the second round, and he came through today, along with Magglio.
"In '06, I don't remember how many homers we hit, because we weren't ready. Now, these guys are dangerous. We just want Miguel and Magglio to come through at any particular time, and they did tonight. I think in the second round, it's going be dangerous for the pitchers."
David Singh is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.