Before the WBC started, I predicted that these two teams would meet in the semifinals. They won't. The way the San Juan Region played out, all four teams split their first two games. So the winner of this game goes on to the semifinal Saturday in San Diego and the loser gets to go back to spring training.
Venezuela will start Freddy Garcia and the Dominican Republic will counter with Daniel Cabrera.
D.R. manager Manny Acta will likely go with a lineup similar to the one he used in yesterday's win over Cuba. That means Placido Polanco will get the start at second base and bat leadoff. Ronny Paulino will likely be the starting catcher after his 2-for-2 performance against Cuba. Catcher is the only weak spot in the otherwise powerful Dominican lineup. The D.R. team has hit nine home runs, tied with the U.S. for the tournament high. Adrian Beltre has hit four and David Ortiz has hit three.
Venezuela's offense has been rather spotty and the team has relied on its pitching staff, throwing three shutouts in five games. Miguel Cabrera has homered twice for Venezuela as well as Endy Chavez, who has been one of the few pleasant surprises on offense for Venezuela. Bobby Abreu, Carlos Guillen, and Magglio Ordoñez have combined for just 7 hits in 52 ABs, although Abreu has managed to draw six walks.
The D.R. pounded Venezuela 11-5 in the opening game of the first round, hitting Carlos Zambrano (who pitched well yesterday) and Carlos Hernandez. Venezuela will want to keep the game close and get the chance to use Francisco Rodriguez in the late innings. Rodriguez represents the one big edge the Venezuelans have as the D.R. has to rely on either Duaner Sanchez or Fernando Rodney to close out the game.
Dominican Republic 2, Venezuela 1
WP -- Miguel Batista
LP -- Kelvim Escobar
Save -- Duaner Sanchez
Five D.R. pitchers combine to hold Venezuela to just one hit (a double by Omar Vizquel in the 6th) and strike out 11. Sanchez loads the bases in the 9th on two walks and an error, but gets out of it.
The Dominican Republic moves on to the semifinals on Saturday night against the winner of tomorrow's game between Cuba and Puerto Rico.