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Vazquez dominates Panama leads Puerto Rico to win


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SAN JUAN, P.R. -- Led by the hitting of Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez, the pitching of Javier Vazquez, and an excited home-field crowd, Puerto Rico beat Panama, 7-0, on Saturday in Game 2 of Pool D play in the World Baseball Classic.

Pudge hit two home runs and a double, scored three runs, and had four RBIs in his four official at-bats of the game. He reached base all five times he batted, walking in the eighth.

The hometown 17,348 fans at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan were vocal throughout the game but they went wild after each of Pudge's home runs. Especially after his three-run blast in the seventh inning when the crowd chanted "Ivan, Ivan, Ivan." Pudge had to come out to the field and wave toward the stands. It was his third standing ovation of the game.

"I am very happy with the fans and the way that they have supported me, the Puerto Rican team, and how they were in the game from beginning to end," said Pudge, after the victory. "I believe that my play today was done with pride and it was a desire to please the fans and for Puerto Rico."

Jose Oquendo, Puerto Rico's manager, was excited about the performances by Rodriguez and Vazquez. "It was a good game. Pudge and Vazquez did a good job. Vazquez threw strikes. He threw a lot of pitches early in the first couple of innings, but he bounced back, did a good job, and he threw 60 pitches for me," said Oquendo.

Vazquez shut out Panama in his 4 1/3 innings of work by scattering four hits and one walk and striking out three batters.

"In the first innings, the first batters for Panama made him work hard and use quite a lot of pitches, but he came back," said Rodriguez, who caught the whole game for Puerto Rico.

"I felt quite good today," said Vazquez. "I feel ready for the season. Playing winter ball helped me to be more advanced than usual."

The Puerto Rican bullpen did its part to preserve the shutout. Nelson Figueroa relieved Vazquez and pitched 2 2/3 innings of hitless baseball, although he did walk three batters. Saul Rivera followed Figueroa on the mound and pitched an uneventful eighth inning. Carlos Gutierrez pitched the ninth; he allowed a hit but kept Panama scoreless.

First baseman Carlos Delgado and designated hitter Geovany Soto also had good nights. Delgado went 3-for-4 with two runs scored and an RBI. Soto went 2-for-4 with a run scored.

Puerto Rico will face the Netherlands on Monday at 6:30 p.m. ET while Panama will face the Dominican Republic on Sunday at 4:30 p.m. Both games will be at Hiram Bitorn Stadium.

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For some reason, I keep picturing the end of this upcoming season where Vazquez & Lowe were two of the best pitchers in the NL. Jurrjens is a great #3, and if KK can pitch anywhere close to the level he has over ST, we have the deepest pitching staff in the NL.

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