Thomas enjoying wild Zulia trip

Thomas enjoying wild Zulia trip

Justin Thomas, who spent the final month of the regular season with the Mariners, will share his experiences pitching for the Cardenales de Lara in the Venezuelan Winter League this offseason via a weekly diary. This is his sixth report.

MARACAIBO, Venezuela, Nov. 20 -- A lot of exciting games and crazy things went on this week. I was able to get a lot of work right after my short but sweet wedding break. I threw in three games, one the second day I was back, and then again the next day. In both games, I threw the ninth inning against La Guira, and in both games we trailed by two at the time. The first night, I retired the side in order on eight pitches with a K. The next night I gave up a hit, but was able to get three outs and another K. We went on to lose both games by two.

After two games at home vs. the Tiburones, we headed to Maracaibo to play Zulia for four games. We lost the first game, 5-4, scoring three runs in the ninth but coming up a little short.

The next day, we played an 11 o'clock game that was completely insane. This week in Maracaibo is a state-wide holiday, and no one had to work on Tuesday, so there were about 20,000 strong in the stands for this game, and the fanaticos were definitely happy to be off of work. I guess that you could say that the party started the night before and went through until the game started at 11 the next day. The reason that I know the party went on all night is because when we arrived at the hotel at midnight on Monday there was a huge festival going on next to the hotel, and when we woke up the next morning at 8:30 to get on the bus you could still hear that the party hadn't stopped. The energy level at the game was unbelievable.

Lucky for us, we were able to put up a six-spot in the second inning, which kind of kept the crowd at bay. Not to mention Tracy Thorpe started and threw a gem, going six shutout innings and only scattering four hits. Mike Morse helped the offense with three hits, which included a three-run jack. We ended up winning the game, 6-1, and went back to the hotel to catch up on some sleep.

On Wednesday, we played another game in Zulia, and the offense from the day before showed up again. This time, it was headlines by Luis Valbuena's four hits and two-run homer. I also pitched another inning in this game, getting three groundouts on nine pitches in the seventh. Shawn Kelley also got an inning of work, striking out three in the ninth to put an end to a 9-3 rout.

The game wasn't really the story, though; the war between the umpire and basically the entire city of Zulia was the real story. In the first few innings of this game, the umpire had a noticeably small zone, but the pitchers were dealing with the ump having an off day. After the Zulia pitcher walked a guy on a close pitch and then surrendered a two-run bomb to Valbuena, their manager blew up and went after the umpire and gave him a mouthful. He was ejected, and the game went on. The Zulia pitcher came out to pitch the fifth and walked the bases loaded. When the pitching coach came out to the mound to take him out of the game, he immediately threw his glove off the field and went after the umpire. He was promptly ejected, but he got his money's worth, throwing his jersey and hat in the stands before his exit.

The most interesting part of this story happened between innings when the Zulia mascot, Agui, got into the act and gave the ump a piece of his mind -- and, of course, he was thrown out as well. It was something to see, very comical. The Zulia fans were not going to stand for the Agui ejection, and that had a lot to do with there being three stoppages in play during the next four innings, because things were being thrown on the field at the ump. When the game ended, the umpiring crew had a police escort off the field, but that didn't stop the Zulia faithful from showering them with beer. What an environment. We play here again today, and then head back to Lara for five days.

Time to check out of the hotel and head to the field for tonight's game. Thanks for checking in, and I will be back next week with the lighter side of sports from Venezuela.

Justin Thomas is a pitcher in the Mariners' organization. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.