In clash of titans, Venezuela finally gets Classic win vs. D.R.

March 12th, 2023

MIAMI -- At least a few eardrums probably burst. The decibel levels were out of this world. And yet, it was one of the most jubilantly raucous nights that loanDepot park has seen. It was better than an All-Star Game. It was the World Baseball Classic, and it was Venezuela's first win over the Dominican Republic.

Fans swapped cheers and disappointed moans as their teams swapped runs and strikeouts early, before Venezuela pulled ahead in the fourth to win the clash of titans, 5-1, on Saturday night.

The matchup closed out the first day of play for Pool D, which also includes Puerto Rico, Nicaragua and Israel. The five teams will play in a round robin tournament in which the two teams with the best records advance to face the winner and runner-up of Pool C (composed of the United States, Great Britain, Mexico, Colombia and Canada) in the quarterfinals in Miami.

In such a high-energy atmosphere, it's the least likely of heroes that emerge. On Saturday night, that honor was bestowed on , who knocked Dominican ace out of the game in the fourth inning, and .

The pair wasn't necessarily meant to be in the lineup together. But at batting practice on Friday, manager Omar López liked what he saw from both Santander and Peralta. So he slotted them batting Nos. 7 and 9.

"I was trying to use my instincts to get all those good swings to the plate," López said. "It was a matchup based on the roster. But [Santander] played very well, and the catch in center field, plus other plays … these were key plays in the game."

Santander came swinging right out of the gate, hitting a solo home run in the bottom of the second inning to get Venezuela on the board and tie the game at 1.

Then, with the bases loaded in the fourth inning, Peralta unleashed on a 92.5 mph slider and cranked the ball into right field for a two-run single. The pitch was Alcantara's 64th and final pitch of the game, as tournament rules dictate that starters be held to a 65-pitch limit in the round-robin style Pool stage of play. Alcantara allowed three runs on five hits and three walks over 3 2/3 innings, striking out two.

"[Alcantara] was two pitches away from throwing a really, really good shutout game," D.R. manager Rodney Linares said. "He threw that front-door sinker to Santander for the home run, and then he threw the 1-2 pitch for the slider that went right to [Peralta's] barrel, and he got the base hit."

For Venezuela, held the Dominican team to one run over 3 1/3 innings. But it was who stole the show after entering in the fifth. Garcia struck out seven batters while allowing two walks, the first time that a reliever has had seven strikeouts in a WBC game.

Peralta ensured his pitching staff had some wiggle room, smacking an RBI double in the bottom of the sixth inning. He watched -- and celebrated -- as  crossed home plate and gave Venezuela a 4-1 lead. But Peralta didn't realize that the ball had already been retrieved, or that the throw home from the outfield had been cut off, and was called out at third base. It was worth it in the end, though.

"I had never played in this kind of atmosphere, exciting with energy, representing my country," Peralta said. "It was not easy for me to calm down when I was at bat, but we are professionals. … I had to calm down to control my emotions."

Santander didn't let Peralta own the spotlight and came in clutch with a diving "ice cream cone" catch in the bottom of the eighth with runners on first and second, robbing the D.R. of an almost certain RBI hit. He followed up those heroics with a triple and a run scored to pad Venezuela's lead in the bottom of the inning.

With the ghosts of defeat at the hands of the D.R. in the past, Team Venezuela is making sure not to get overconfident. 

"This is my first Classic," Peralta said, "and I have always said that the past is in the past. Today we won. That's what really matters. We celebrated today, but we have to continue playing. We have to be prepared for tomorrow."

Next up for Venezuela: A matchup against Puerto Rico (1-0) Sunday at 7 p.m. ET. Team Dominican Republic gets an off-day before facing Nicaragua on Monday at noon ET.