Johnny Yussef Santos of Los Federales de Chiriquí of Panama slides safe into home plate in the second inning of a game between Puerto Rico and Panama at loanDepot Park as part of Serie del Caribe 2024 on February 5, 2024 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Luis Gutierrez/Norte Photo/Getty Images)
By Leif Skodnick
World Baseball Network
MIAMI – After four hours and two minutes of baseball that could generously be described as sloppy, Panama’s Federales de Chiriqui edged Puerto Rico’s Criollos de Caguas 9-7 to remain undefeated at the 2024 Caribbean Series.
Puerto Rico took an early lead, but Panama came back with a four-run bottom of the second and never trailed again, though they let Puerto Rico back into the game, allowing the Boriquas to get within a run before finally pulling away in a marathon of a game that included five errors and 10 pitching changes.
With the win, Panama improved to 4-0, while Puerto Rico is 2-2.
Bryan Torres led off the top of the first, stole second and then scored on a single to left by Emmanuel Rivera to give Puerto Rico a 1-0 lead.
With Jhonny Santos on first in the bottom of the second, Joshwan Wright smacked a 1-2 changeup from Puerto Rico’s Serrick Adams to the gap, and Santos chugged around the bases, sliding into the plate as the throw from the cut-off man arrived. Puerto Rico catcher Jonathan Morales couldn’t handle the throw, and Adams, backing him up, threw to third to try to get Wright. Rivera couldn’t handle the throw and Wright came into score to make it 2-1 Panama.
Adams then walked Edgar Muñoz on five pitches and allowed a single to Allen Cordoba.
The. Ivan Herrera took Adams’ 1-0 changeup on the outside corner to the opposite field for a double that scored Cordoba and Muñoz, Panama took a 4-0 lead, and Adams’ evening was over after just 1.2 innings.
Puerto Rico answered right back, cutting the lead to 4-3 when Nelson Velazquez launched a two-run homer 402 feet into the nightclub next to the left field bullpen in the top of the third.
In the bottom half of the fourth, Panama landed a one-two combination with successive RBI singles from Santos and Wright to make it 6-3.
Puerto Rico pitcher Bryan Garcia, who entered the game before the singles by Santos and Wright, loaded the bases when he hit Muñoz with a pitch and Walked Cordoba. He then hit Ivan Herrera to force a run across and give Panama a 7-3 lead.
At that point, Puerto Rico manager Yadier Molina had seen enough and yanked Garcia in favor of Ricardo Gomez, who got Cristian Bethancourt to fly out and end the inning.
In the sixth, Puerto Rico’s Danny Ortiz walked, and with Ortiz on first and a 3-1 count to Heliot Ramos, Panama catcher Ivan Herrera made a poor throw to first that escaped the glove of Panama first baseman Cristian Bethancourt, allowing Ortiz to advance to third base. He’d score when Heliot grounded out to first.
Nelson Velazquez ripped an RBI single to center in the top of the seventh that scored Jack Lopez to cut the lead to 7-5, and then Puerto Rico reliever Fernando Perez hit JC Escarra to load the bases.
Perez yielded to Kenny Hernandez, who promptly walked Emmanuel Rivera to send Bryan Torres home and make it a 7-6 ballgame.
Johan Camargo’s RBI double in the bottom of the eighth scored Bethancourt, and two batters later, Joshwan Wright singled to score Camargo and make it 9-6.
Heliot Ramos clubbed a solo homer in the bottom of the ninth for Puerto Rico with two outs, but Panama’s Severino Gonzalez got Trei Cruz to fly out to left to bring the game to a merciful end.
Puerto Rico is off on Tuesday, while Panama will play Venezuela (3-1) at 8:30 p.m. EST. The 2024 Caribbean Series is telecast on ESPN Deportes and ESPN+.