By Julian Guilarte
World Baseball Classic
Jan. 15, 2023
The Tigres del Licey rode the performance of three players to even up the best-of-seven LIDOM Championship series with an 8-3 win against Estrellas Orientales Saturday night.
After falling behind 1-0 in the first, Licey’s Jeimer Candelario stayed hot with an RBI double. Candelario’s two doubles were 40 percent of the hits for Orientales. Henry Urrutia had an RBI with a solo home run. Ramón Florez pinch-hit and drove in a run, those were the three runs for Estrellas. A big play came on a single from Christian Pache when Mel Rojas Jr. gunned him out for left field at second base.
Mel Rojas Jr. – Rojas had a huge day, hitting a monster home run that got the Tigres offense going, reaching base in all five of his plate appearances with two hits and three walks. He scored three runs, drove in two and stole a base. Rojas is 32 years old and has two separate stints in LIDOM, from 2013-2016 and this season. He has spent five years in the KBO and led that league in home runs, RBI and runs in 2020, winning the MVP. His defense remained elite with two gold gloves in 2020 and 2019. During the LIDOM season, he had three home runs and seven RBI with an OPS of .1086 in 35 at-bats. He struggled in the round-robin with a .156 batting average. If he can stay hot, he’s capable of carrying Licey to the championship.
Los @tigresdellicey contraatacan 👀💥 ¡HOMERUN de Mel Rojas Jr. que trae la primera de dos que los azules anotaron para irse arriba! 🐯🔥#LIDOM #SerieFinalLIDOM #CopaBanreservas ⚾️🏆 pic.twitter.com/KdIP8tjh6K— LIDOM (@LIDOMRD) January 15, 2023
Dairon Blanco – Blanco had three hits and three RBI along with two stolen bases. Blanco has a great two games with five hits and three stolen bases. Blanco was a late addition to Licey and he only played three games with Gigantes. In 2019 he played with the Toros in 48 games. He drove in 11 runs and stole 10 bases. The Cuban outfielder had seven at-bats with the Kansas City Royals, but he was DFA’d in June. He played in the Cuban National series from 2012-16 and he defected from Cuba in 2016.
Raul Valdes – Valdes, the starter, stepped up big time going seven innings and giving up two runs. He struck out four and walked one batter. Vades attacks the zone and pitches to his strength. He gave up just four hits and held Ronny Mauricio hitless. Mauricio, a top infield prospect for the New York Mets, has had a rough series, not yet recording a hit. Valdes has built on a solid round-robin for the tigers now allowing eight runs in 33 innings. Valdes will be called upon again if the series goes beyond five games.
Other notable player results – Jorge Alfaro stayed hot for Licey, recording three more hits. Emilio Bonifacio had two hits. Jesus Sucre and Michael De Leon added an RBI each. Licey ended up winning the game 8-3. For Estrellas, Robinson Cano went 0-4. Carlos Hernandez got rocked giving up three runs in 2.1 innings.
Esmil Rodriguez will start Game 3 for Licey. He is 4-2 with an ERA of 1.67. Domingo Robles will be pitching for Estrellas. He is 1-2 with an ERA of 1.78.