The 2023 World Baseball Classic in its second phase of the quarterfinals until the beautiful match for the scepter, demonstrated, with the exception of the Cuba-United States clash, a great level of play and close matches.
Venezuela experienced one of those electrifying confrontations, when it lost 9-7 to the runner-up United States.
It was a painful outcome for the Venezuelan people whether they loved baseball or not, but one thing is almost certain. Since the semifinal that was lost in 2009, none of the last three national teams had performed in line with the quality of the roster that came out to compete.
The victories against the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, especially, showed a cohesive Red Wine with a palpable "team work", which was far from many of our representations in the 2013 and 2017 contests.
And perhaps this was the key to recent performance. It cannot be denied that the presence of Omar López as a strategist helped unite, (with his active coach, Miguel Cabrera), a club that apart from going out to have fun on the field, played as a family and always thinking about winning.
Although the whole team played and there were many who could even ask for more playing time, in the case of Eduardo Escobar; or more opportunities to pitch, for example the opener Carlos Eduardo Hernández, everyone accepted their roles and, even from the dugout, they encouraged their teammates in full swing.
Read also: Venezuela looks good for the 2026 Classic
Regarding the management of position players, López was very successful in rotating his stars and using the bench with precision.
And although they couldn't hit stellar pieces like José Altuve (.214), Ronald Acuña Jr. (.222), Eduardo Escobar (.100), Gleyber Torres (.100) and Miguel Cabrera (.111), others did respond like:
- Salvador Perez (.429)
- Eugenio Suarez (.500)
- Anthony Santander (.353)
- David Peralta (.357)
One who did not have many hits, which is his specialty, was Luis Arráez, but he was opportune in the clashes against Puerto Rico and the United States, who hit two home runs.
However, López, as he had declared, concentrated especially on pitching, presenting two first-class starters in the first game (Martín Pérez and Luis García), to have them ready for a possible quarterfinal game, which happened, but it got lost.
Then he continued with three other stars, one per match: Pablo López, Eduardo Rodríguez and Jesús Luzardo, all with the pitching limitations required by the MLB. We don't include Ranger Suárez with physical problems yet; and Germán Márquez, who was recovered and ready for a final that did not happen.
Hence, López took pains to build a bullpen that would respond in case of emergencies. And he used it well in the cases of José Ruiz (2-0), Jhoulys Chacín and Silvino Bracho (one save). The closer José Alvarado (0.00) worked in his three relays with a save.
So far so good. However, López failed to get the crane to his pitchers at key moments. In the game they beat Puerto Rico 9-6, he was wrong twice. One when he let reliever Andrés Machado receive a bat; and then by lengthening Chacín a lot, whom Bracho saved, by drawing a zero with bases loaded and no outs.
The third and deadly one was when he left the left-handed José Quijada for two more batters against the gringos, when his great lack of control was obvious. They homered Silvino, it's valid, but it should never have been with a full house, but with one on base.
In pitching they struck him out.