Puerto Rico held to seven hits in first loss of tourney

Updated: March 14, 2006, 2:04 AM ET
Associated Press


SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Facing elimination from the World Baseball Classic, Venezuela overpowered Puerto Rico on the mound and at the plate.

Victor Martinez hit a grand slam, Carlos Zambrano combined with six pitchers on a seven-hitter and Venezuela defeated Puerto Rico 6-0 in the second round of the World Baseball Classic on Monday night.

Zambrano struck out five in four innings, giving up two hits and two walks. Carlos Silva, Rafael Betancourt, Gustavo Chacin, Victor Zambrano, Jorge Julio and Francisco Rodriguez allowed five hits over the final five innings.

Endy Chavez hit a two-run homer off Joel Pineiro in the fifth and Martinez extended Venezuela's lead to 6-0 with a grand slam in the eighth as Puerto Rico lost for the first time in the tournament.

"We've been quiet offensively and today we came through when we needed it," said Venezuela manager Luis Sojo. "It's not a secret that our fine pitching has kept us afloat in this tournament."

Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Cuba and the Dominican Republic are now tied with a 1-1 record.

Venezuela plays the Dominican Republic on Tuesday night and Cuba meets Puerto Rico on Wednesday. The winners will advance to the semifinals.

"This win will lift our team's spirit because tomorrow we'll play a crucial game. Our offense stood tall today," Chavez said.

With two outs in the fifth, Chavez hit his second homer of the WBC on Pineiro's 3-1 pitch.

"I wanted to put the ball in play and he put good wood on it," Pineiro said. "It was a sinker. ... He hit it to the right part of the ballpark and the wind was blowing that way."

Pineiro left the game one batter later after walking Omar Vizquel on four pitches. Reliever Pedro Feliciano got a pop fly to left from Bobby Abreu to close the inning.

Venezuela loaded the bases in the eighth with walks to Vizquel and Abreu, and Miguel Cabrera was hit by a pitch. Martinez followed with a drive to right off Ivan Maldonado.

"We came here today with only one task in mind: to win. We knew it would be tough because Puerto Rico's line up is of a very high class," Martinez said.

Silva replaced Carlos Zambrano in the fifth and benefited from an odd double play.

Jose Valentin opened the inning with a single and reached third on a single by Alex Cintron. Alex Cora bunted, but catcher Ramon Hernandez fielded and threw to Vizquel at second to force out Cintron. Then Vizquel threw to third and Valentin was tagged out.

Bernie Williams made the third out with a fly to center. Silva scattered four hits in two innings with one strikeout.

Pineiro pitched out of a jam in the second with two runners on base and no outs. Victor Martinez walked and Hernandez singled to left. First baseman Javy Lopez made a sliding catch in foul territory to retire Hernandez. Magglio Ordonez hit a grounder to short for an inning-ending double play.

Pineiro pitched 4 2/3 innings. He had three strikeouts and allowed two runs on four hits and three walks.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press