Venezuela overpowers Italy

Guillen, Mora each homer to set up showdown with US

Right-hander Carlos Silva scattered six hits in four scoreless innings for Venezuela.  (Chris Young/AP)

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TORONTO -- Venezuelan manager Luis Sojo admits that even he experienced slight nerves during the opening innings of Saturday's World Baseball Classic tilt against Italy.

The teams traded zeros on the scoreboard for the first four innings -- something that was not expected from the potent Venezuelan offense.

"To tell you I wasn't anxious, I'm a liar," Sojo said.

However, the skipper's anxieties did not last long, as his sleeping offense soon awoke in a big way, helping Team Venezuela to cruise to a 7-0 win over Italy in the second game of Pool C at Rogers Centre.

Sojo said shortstop Carlos Guillen's solo home run off Italian reliever Jason Grilli in the bottom of the fifth inning was the turning point for Venezuela.

"As soon as Carlos Guillen hit that homer, you know, it opened everything for us," said Sojo. "We started making better swings. They got a lot of pitches, and we worked the count very good at the second half of the game, and I think that was the key for our success."

Guillen's homer indeed opened the floodgates, as the Venezuelans immediately responded with a double and a walk, chasing Grilli from the game. He was replaced by left-hander Lenny DiNardo, who did not fare much better. Upon entering the game, DiNardo proceeded to load the bases and then walk Melvin Mora, which forced a run to score. The next batter, Bobby Abreu, stroked an RBI single to right field that plated two more runs and pushed Venezuela's lead to 4-0.

Mora added to the tally in the seventh frame with a solo home run into the second deck in left field. In the eighth inning, Venezuelan catcher Ramon Hernandez and Mora each added an RBI, making the score 7-0.

Mora, who finished the game 2-for-4 with a home run and three RBIs, was quick to credit Venezuela's starting pitcher, Carlos Silva, for the team's success. Silva did not allow a run in his four innings of work, allowing the Venezuelan offense time to find its feet.

"I think the difference was Carlos Silva," Mora said. "He gave us the opportunity to adjust."

Silva's contributions were equaled by teammate Felix Hernandez, the winning pitcher in Saturday's affair. Hernandez -- the ace of the Seattle Mariners -- entered the game in the fifth inning, something he is not used to doing.

"It was a little bit difficult, because it's the first time I've come out of a bullpen in the middle of a game," Hernandez said. "But I'm professional, I know how to make the adjustments and I'm a pro. And I tried to make the best of it."

Hernandez certainly did make the best of his unusual situation, providing four solid innings of relief, allowing just one hit. The right-hander was obviously overjoyed to represent his country.

"When I have Venezuela's uniform on, I think it's incredible," Hernandez said. "It's an incredible emotion."

The rest of his teammates will search for that emotion again on Sunday, as Team Venezuela is set to take on the Americans at Rogers Centre. Armando Galarraga will take the mound against Roy Oswalt.

Dave Singh is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.