Ramon Hernández of the Tigres del Licey of Dominican slides safely at home plate with catcher Jonathan Morales of Criollos de Caguas of Puerto Rico in the third inning of a game between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico at loanDepot park as part of Serie del Caribe 2024 on February 3, 2024 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Luis Gutierrez/ Norte Photo/Getty Images)
By Conor Liguori
World Baseball Network
MIAMI- It was by far the most anticipated matchup of the day, and the two teams did not disappoint the capacity crowd.
Well, one team did. The Dominican Republic’s Tigres del Licey defeated Puerto Rico’s Criollos de Caguas 5-2 on Saturday night on the third day of the 2023 Caribbean Series at loanDepotPark in Miami.
The Dominican Republic jumped ahead 1-0 in the top of the second. After three straight singles off Puerto Rico starting pitcher Daryl Thompson, Kelvin Gutierrez grounded into a 6-4-3 double play with the bases loaded. Although Ramon Hernandez run scored from third, Thompson escaped the jam relatively unscathed.
The Dominican Republic extended the lead to 3-0 in the top of the third on a two-run home run by second baseman Robinson Cano and an RBI single from Dawel Lugo that scored Ramon Hernandez.
Cano’s blast was his first of the Caribbean Series and shifted the momentum in the favor of the Dominican Republic. Thompson had a much shorter outing than expected, lasting just 2.2 innings and allowing four earned runs.
In the bottom of the fourth, Dominican Republic centerfielder Emilio Bonifacio ran in on a line drive by Danny Ortiz that ended up going over his head and rolling to the wall to give Puerto Rico their first run of the game. A few batters later, Johneshwy Fargas cut the D.R. lead to 4-2 with a sacrifice fly to Bonifacio.
Both teams were held scoreless in the fifth and sixth innings, but the crowd remained heavily invested. Neither fanbase dominated in noise, and both countries’ flags could be seen across loanDepot Park. The announced attendance was 35,972, the largest crowd of the 2024 Caribbean Series so far and the largest single-game crowd in Caribbean Series history.
In the top of the seventh, shortstop Gustavo Nunez punched an RBI single to left field, extending the Dominican Republic lead to 5-2.
Puerto Rico had a runner on third with two outs in the bottom of the seventh. Still, Dominican Republic reliever Cameron Gann struck out catcher J.C. Escarra, swinging to end the threat.
Outfielder Dwight Smith Jr. sent a fastball deep to left field with a runner on base in the bottom of the eighth for Puerto Rico, but it was caught by Dominican Republic outfielder Junior Lake five feet in front of the wall.
The Dominican lead held for the last two innings, with Jairo Asencio recording the final three outs and earning a save for the Dominican Republic. Three Dominican Republic relievers combined to allow just one hit from the sixth inning on to secure the 5-2 win. Starting pitcher Cesar Valdez allowed two earned runs on six hits in five innings.
Puerto Rico (2-1) will face Venezuela on Sunday, Feb. 4, at 3:30 p.m. EST. The Dominican Republic (2-1) will face Mexico at 8:30 p.m. EST on Sunday. All games at the 2024 Caribbean Series are played at loanDepot Park in Miami home of the Miami Marlins. The 2024 Caribbean Series is telecast live on ESPN Deportes and ESPN+.