By Leif Skodnick
World Baseball Network
The Dominican Republic’s Tigres del Licey won their second game in a row at the 2023 Caribbean Series, exploding for four runs against Puerto Rico in the top of the first and not looking back.
In addition to the early offense, the Dominican Republic’s bullpen shut down the Puerto Rico lineup as the D.R. cruised to a 6-4 win at Estadio Forum in La Guaira, Venezuela Saturday afternoon, raising their record to 2-1. Puerto Rico falls to 1-2.
The Dominican Republic jumped all over Puerto Rico starter Luis Leroy Cruz in the bottom of the first inning, starting with a leadoff single to left field by LIDOM round robin MVP Emilio Bonifacio. Then Yamaico Navarro walked, and Robinson Cano’s flyout to deep center was enough to advance Bonifacio to third. Ramon Hernandez followed Cano with an RBI single that scored Bonifacio, and then Mel Rojas Jr. drove in Navarro and Hernandez with a double to left. Two batters later, Webster Rivas’ single to left field made it 4-0 for the D.R. and chasing Cruz from the mound having thrown just a third of an inning.
Puerto Rico got on the board in the top of the second when Jesmuel Valentin singled to right, scoring Ruben Castro to make it 4-1.
Robinson Cano punched back for the Dominican Republic, lashing a long double off the left field wall to score Navarro in the bottom of the second.
Esmil Rogers went five innings for the Dominican Republic, holding Puerto Rico to two runs on six hits with three walks, striking out two before turning the game over to Williams Jerez.
Emilio Bonifacio added another insurance run with a solo homer to the right field power alley in the top of the seventh.
Jerez, Francisco Abad, who entered the game in the top of the eighth, Jesus Liranzo, and Jairo Asencio combined for four innings of relief, allowing two hits and four walks in relief of Rogers, efficiently cutting down the Puerto Rico lineup in three of the last four innings.
Puerto Rico tried to make it interesting in the top of the ninth after Liranzo walked the bases loaded before being replaced by Asencio. Asencio’s first batter, Bryan Torres, hit a single to center that was bobbled by the D.R.’s Bonifacio, allowing two runs to score to cut the lead to 6-4. The next batter, Emmanuel Rivera, grounded into a fielder’s choice at third, and Kelvin Gutierrez scooped the ball and stepped on third for a force out to end the game.
The Dominican Republic will face host nation Venezuela tomorrow evening at 6:30 p.m. ET. at La Rinconada. Puerto Rico will face Panama at 5 p.m. ET at Estadio Forum in La Guaira. Every game of the 2023 Caribbean Series is available via ESPN Deportes and streamed online on ESPN+.