Puerto Rico captured its Caribbean Cup opener 3-0 against Curacao. (Photo Courtesy WBSC Americas)
By Matthew Tallarini
World Baseball Network
World No. 27 Curacao beat host nation No. 13 Puerto Rico 3-0 in six innings in a game shortened by rain on the strength of a combined no-hitter from Curacao starting pitcher Arlison Rodriguez and relief pitcher Nigel Caimes at Estadio Concepción Pérez Alberto in Fajardo, Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico is on the bubble of playing in the Premier 12 tournament next year if they can place high at the Caribbean Cup or win gold that could factor them being in the field.
Puerto Rico will not participate in the Pan American Games this month, having failed to qualify by finishing outside in the top four at the 2023 Central American and Caribbean Games.
Curacao’s roster for the Caribbean Cup will have most of the players be assessed to play in the revamp of their winter league that is starting in the next few weeks after the Major League Baseball season.
“We came to Puerto Rico for the gold medal. Most of the guys they went to El Salvador for the Central American and Caribbean Games a few months back they have a chip on their shoulder we have a really pretty solid squad,” said Curacao manager Carlos Pineda following the game. “We do have power, we do have speed and all the other fundamentals, and were pretty confident with the roster we have and we can take the championship back home.”
Puerto Rico starter Luis “Leroy” Cruz and Rodriguez squared off in a pitching duel, keeping both offenses off balance during the first few innings of Monday’s action.
The first hit of the game would not come until the top of the fourth inning when Curacao first baseman Dudley Leonora poked a single to center field and second baseman Darren Seferina came in to score. Then Puerto Rico third baseman Osvaldo Martinez threw the ball out of the reach of second baseman Kenen Irizarry’s glove and it trickled into the outfield, allowing right fielder Erickson Lenora to score from first base to go up 2-0.
Puerto Rico starting pitcher Luis Cruz threw four innings allowing one hit, one earned run, three walks, and striking out six strikeouts, and relief pitcher Alexander Castro entered the game from the bullpen for the fifth.
The game was stopped for a rain delay during the top of the fifth inning after Puerto Rico right fielder Jonuel Ponce made a diving catch off the bat of Curacao designated hitter Daytan Biegel for the first out of the inning.
Play resumed 41 minutes later, and Curacao added another run to the board as Seferina roped a line drive single to center field scoring catcher Stephen Vidal to extend the lead to 3-0.
Rodriguez did not come back out for the bottom of the fifth inning pitching lights out through four innings, no hits allowed, walking two batters, and five strikeouts as manager Carlos Pineda called upon relief pitcher Nigel Caimes.
Another rain delay occurred in the top of the sixth inning for 10 minutes with the on and off showers passing through Fajardo for parts of the night as play once again resumed.
After center fielder Raysheandall Michel struck out swinging, the second rain delay of the game occurred in the top of the sixth inning before Dudley Lenora led off the inning with an infield single to third base.
The game was called in the top of the sixth inning with two outs on account of rain, giving Curacao a combined no-hitter for their pitching staff in the 3-0 win.
Caimes recorded the save in the fifth inning, throwing one inning with no hits allowed and two strikeouts.
Puerto Rico’s pitching staff with relief pitchers Alexander Castro, Cristian Torres, and Jimmy Gonzalez outside of Cruz filled two innings in the shortened game allowing four hits, two earned runs, four walks, and eight strikeouts during Monday’s 3-0 loss.
“I had my defense working for me getting outs and was feeling good to do my best to help my team win,” Rodriguez told World Baseball Network following the win..
Curacao will be the home team on Tuesday against Cuba starting at 3:30 p.m. EDT at Parque Beisbol Doble-A Emilio Huyuke Las Piedras, Puerto Rico. The United States Virgin Islands will play Puerto Rico at 7:30 p.m at Parque Beisbol Doble-A Emilio Huyuke Las Piedras, Puerto Rico.
All games will be streamed on https://r1live.com/ with a paid subscription.