When oddsmakers put their heads together about the World Baseball Classic, their picks were considerably at odds (pun intended) with the current picture.
The Dominican Republic brought the star power to the classic with players such as Sandy Alcantara and AL Rookie of the Year Julio Rodriguez, as well as heavy hitters such as Manny Machado, Juan Soto, and Rafael Devers.
Puerto Rico brought something any intelligent fan would bet on: experience with a winning record going back to 2019 and finishing as runner-ups in 2013 and 2017.
But no one can count out an x-factor, as Venezuela proved to the world on Sunday. Going into the game, hopes were not high for Venezuela. Venezuela won the first two WBC outings, taking down Puerto Rico in 2006 and 2009. However, Puerto Rico has proved dominant in their last three meetings, beating Venezuela twice in the ‘17 Classic, outscoring Venezuela 24-2.
And, despite having an equally star-studded roster, Venezuela just didn’t catch the attention they apparently deserved.
However, after a dominant win over the Dominican Republic on Saturday; and, perhaps, an even more jarring statement win over Puerto Rico, Venezuela has the league’s attention.
Leading the way to a 7-0 lead, Anthony Santander and Salvador Perez’s three-run homers quickly set Puerto Rico on their heels. Perez was especially crucial, going 4 for 4 on 5 RBIs.
The score was 9-1 for 5 ½ innings before Puerto Rico was able to shake off the first 3/4s of the game and battle back, scoring 4 times in the bottom of the 6th. Another score in the 8th inning left the score at 9-6, possibly opening the door for a comeback.
Unfortunately for Puerto Rico, Venezuela had another ace up its sleeve: Cincinnati Reds pitcher Silvino Bracho. Scoring the final six outs (only facing 5 batters and disposing of an inherited runner via a double play), the final score remained 9-6.
Speaking of Sunday’s win and the future matchups, Venezuela’s manager had this to say: “We feel really good, we’re calm, and we’re staying humble. That was the message to the guys in the clubhouse…Tomorrow we have an off day, and we’ll prepare for Nicaragua. But the guys are very committed and want to be successful.”