2008-2009 DOMINICAN LEAGUE BASEBALL – Licey Matches Aguilas With Title #20
A sacrifice fly off the bat of Anderson Hernandez helped the Tigres del Licey beat the Gigantes del Cibao last December 2 in a Dominican League record-tying 18-inning affair. Then, less than eight weeks later, Hernandez’ misplayed single ended a 12-inning contest to oust the Gigantes in a best-of-nine Domincan League final series that took all of 37 innings to complete.
Licey equaled the league record with their 20th championship in an anti-climatic final series marred by a forfeit in game three and a rain-shortened one-run game in game four. Nevertheless, they swept the series 5-0 by winning the four games decided on the field by a total of five runs.
It’s fitting that Hernandez took the final swing of the season, as the 26-year-old Washington Nationals infielder topped the circuit in hits, doubles, triples and runs scored during the regular season. Though his .365 batting average was officially second best, it’s worth noting that he played almost twice as much as league leader Pablo Ozuna (.390). In 22 playoff games, Anderson hit .344, including a .474 performance in the finals.
Licey crawled into the round-robin playoff tournament after a so-so 26-24 regular season that saw their pitching staff post a horrific 5.53 ERA. Considering Licey’s Jorge Sosa (6-2, 2.53) was arguably the league’s top pitcher, you can imagine how ineffective their other hurlers were. It was a different story in the post-season, as Licey pitchers worked to a 3.02 ERA in the 18-game round robin semis, followed by a 2.43 mark in the finals.
The high-scoring Gigantes used the long ball to get to the finals: 95 of them in 69 regular season and semi-final games. Cincinnati Reds prospect Juan Francisco was particularly outstanding, managing 17 homers in 251 at bats with a .343 overall average including his post-season numbers. The Gigantes pounded the Toros del Este 12-7 in a one-game playoff to reach the finals, but then their bats went cold. After losing game one on a controversial (read bad) call, then blowing a 6-2 lead in game two, the Gigantes forfeited game three when they learned leadoff hitter and 2B Felix Martinez had been suspended for the series after an incident with an umpire. To their credit, they played Licey closer than a five-game sweep would indicate, dropping a pair of one-run games after returning to the field.
The Aguilas Cibaenas made news during the regular season when veteran Luis Polonia became the league’s career hit leader, and Victor Diaz whacked 17 home runs to set a single-season record. However, Diaz went just 2-30 (.067) in the playoffs with 15 strikeouts as the Aguilas lost their last 12 games and missed out on a chance to defend last year’s title, finishing the semi-final tournament an embarrassing 2-16. Their offense was inept, but the 6.93 ERA posted by the pitching staff certainly has to share in the blame.
by Malcolm Allen