Pablo Sandoval came through for his Venezuelan Winter League team last night in his second game back after being hospitalized for abdominal pains. The game wasn’t too important for the Navagantes del Magallanes of the Venezuelan Professional Baseball League or Liga Venezolana de Beisbol Profesional (LVBP) since they had already clinched a spot in the Venezuelan Championship Series. However, having one of their best players back after an injury gives them a chance to see how healthy he is, especially after going 0-for-4 in his first game back.
In the bottom of the 1st inning, after fellow Major League Baseball players Endy Chavez and Elvis Andrus hitting atop the order each grounded out, Pablo stepped in to hit. He would double by lining a 1-1 pitch to left field where former San Francisco Giants‘ outfielder Darren Ford (currently in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization) was playing. He would then score the first run of the game as another former Giants’ player Eliezer Alfonzo (recently signed to a minor league deal with the Los Angels Dodgers) got involved with a single. Magallanes never looked back as they went on to beat the Leones del Caracas in the round robin final by a score of 4-1.
The win gave Magallanes their 10th win and a top two finish with the Cardenales de Lara who also finished 10-6. Now the top two teams of the round robin will play for the Venezuelan Championship Series in a best-of-7. Lara may lack the MLB talent of the Navegantes but they are the team Magallanes will now face off against starting tomorrow. The upcoming championship series is the final phase of the LVBP season. The regular season runs from October to December and involves all 8 of the teams in the league playing each other 9 times for a 63 games season (Magallanes finished in 1st at 36-27 this year). January begins with the round robin or semifinal phase which involves the top five teams from the regular season playing each other 4 times for 16 games total.
The winner of the Venezuelan Championship series will then move on to the Caribbean Series to represent Venezuela against the championship winners from the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Mexico. Every year the venue for the series changes and this year it will be held in Hermosillo, Mexico between February 1st and 7th. The Estadio Hector Espino will be the stadium where they will play each of the other teams 2 times to determine the Caribbean Series Champion based on record (Leones del Escogido of the Dominican Republic won the series in 2012). Magallanes is hoping they can win their 11th Venezuelan League Championship (They last won it in 2002) and then get a shot at trying to win their 3rd Caribbean Series Championship (They last won it in 1979).
Just as the Panda had done for the Giants in 2012, he proved to be a better hitter in the postseason than the regular season for the Navegantes in their 2012-13 campaign. In 9 games at the end of the Navegantes’ regular season, Pablo had a .235 AVG with 1 homer and a .686 OPS over 35 At Bats. While in 14 games during the round robin phase he hit for a .302 AVG with 4 homers and a .916 OPS over 53 At Bats. Since winning the World Series with the Giants in October, the Panda may have an opportunity to add a few more championship trophies to his resume. If he can stay hot through the Venezuelan Championship in January, potential Caribbean Series Championship in February and the World baseball Classic staring in March he can certainly attain a first of its kind historical achievement with four championships over a five month period.
Keep checking here or on our Twitter account for updates as the Panda attempts to make history before the 2013 season for the Giants even begins.
by Raul Rekow Jr.