photo: Anthony Garcia (Springfield Cardinals FANatic Photos)
After a promising start, the 2018 Caribbean Series did not end well for Nestor Molina and Venezuela.
After splitting its first two games last Friday and Saturday, Venezuela turned to recent St. Louis Cardinals addition Molina to face host Mexico Sunday night. The 29-year old right-hander went 5 1/3 innings, allowing just two runs on five hits, one walk and four strikeouts, as his club advanced to the semi-finals. (Link to box score)
Following another loss, however, 2-2 Venezuela entered Wednesday’s contest with Puerto Rico in a must-win situation. The victor would face the Dominican Republic in Thursday’s final, with the loser eliminated.
Entering the sixth, Venezuela was cruising with a 4-0 lead – until starter Daryl Thompson tired. He was pulled from the contest with one out and the bases loaded, replaced by Molina. Puerto Rico’s next batter, none other than ex-Cardinal Anthony Garcia, launched a game-tying grand slam. With that, Molina left the mound, his series ERA up to 5.07.
Venezuela was not done, however, retaking the lead in the seventh, but the pen again let it get away in the eighth. The final score was in Puerto Rico’s favor, 6-5. (Link to box score)
In Thursday’s final, Puerto Rico defeated the Dominican Republic 9-4, to win the Series. Another former Cardinal, Ruben Gotay, contributed a two-run double.
A notoriously streaky hitter, Garcia was clearly red-hot during his week in Mexico – named Caribbean Series MVP on the basis of three home runs, four doubles, eight RBI and eight runs scored in six games. The outfielder batted .500 with a 1.598 OPS.
Garcia, who signed with Oakland for 2018 after leaving the Cardinals as a minor league free agent last fall, has a track record of success in winter play, including the MVP award of the Puerto Rico League in 2014-2015.
However, as a Cardinal, Garcia peaked at Double-A, a level he first reached in 2015. The 26-year old did not perform well in Triple-A trials in each of the last two seasons and was removed from the 40-man roster in April 2017, going unclaimed.
Winter ball is now officially done for another year.
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