Heliot Ramos of the Criollos de Caguas from Puerto Rico celebrates scoring in the fifth inning during a game between Dominican Republic and Nicaragua at loanDepot park as part of Serie del Caribe 2024 on February 2, 2024 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Luis Gutierrez/Norte Photo/Getty Images)
By Conor Liguori
World Baseball Network
MIAMI- Two runs were all Puerto Rico needed to secure their second victory of the 2024 Caribbean Series, shutting out Mexico to improve to 2-0.
After a disappointing 6-5 loss to Curacao on Thursday, Mexico looked to turn things around with professional baseball veteran Odrisamer Despaigne on the mound.
Their opponent, Puerto Rico, defeated Nicaragua 5-2 on Thursday in the opening game of the 2024 Caribbean Series at loanDepotPark in Miami, Florida. Manager Yadier Molina handed the ball to righty Alex Sanabia to start for Puerto Rico.
Mexico scattered a few singles together in the bottom of the second, but a near-perfect throw from Puerto Rico right fielder Heliot Ramos left baserunner Agustin Murillo, not known for his speed, dead in his tracks at home plate.
Mexico threatened to score again in the bottom of the fourth, but a sliding catch near the wall by Puerto Rico center fielder Bryan Torres robbed Julian Ornelas of extra bases and an RBI. The strong defense continued for Puerto Rico as shortstop Jack Lopez made a diving catch to his left to end the inning.
Both starting pitchers looked sharp early, especially Despaigne, who gave up just one hit and struck out four in the first four innings. Sanabia allowed three hits and struck out one in three innings of work. The 36-year-old Despaigne ran into trouble at the top of the fifth, allowing back-to-back singles to Danny Ortiz and Heliot Ramos.
Catcher Jonathan Morales laid down a sacrifice bunt to move the runners to second and third, and Emmanuel Rivera hit a clutch two-run single to center field to drive in the only two runs of the game. Rivera, who went 1-for-3 in Friday’s game, is no stranger to postseason environments, having played third base for the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2023 MLB World Series.
Puerto Rico had runners on second and third with two outs in the top of the seventh, but Mexico reliever Curtis Taylor struck out Bryan Torres to escape the jam. Both bullpens did an excellent job keeping runners off the base paths and runs off the scoreboard in the later innings.
Six Puerto Rico relievers combined to allow just one hit in the final six innings and secure the victory. There were a total of nine hits in the contest.
Holding on to a 2-0 lead, Molina brought in Chavez Fernander to close the game for Puerto Rico. He struck out the first two inning batters, but Emmanuel Rivera made a throwing error over first baseman J.C. Escarra’s glove to keep Mexico alive. One batter later, Juan Carlos Gamboa grounded to second to end the game. Fernander was credited with the save.
Puerto Rico (2-0) will play its next game on Saturday, Feb. 3, against the Dominican Republic at 8:30 p.m. EST. Mexico (0-2) will regroup and take on Panama at 3:30 p.m. EST on Saturday.
The 2024 Caribbean Series can be viewed on ESPN+ and ESPN Deportes in the United States.