Edwin Diaz of Puerto Rico is helped off the field after being injured during the on-field celebration after defeating the Dominican Republic during the World Baseball Classic Pool D at loanDepot park on March 15, 2023 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)
By Matthew Tallarini
World Baseball Network
MIAMI- Puerto Rico prevailed in a win-or-go-home battle of Latin American baseball heavyweights and advanced out of Pool, beating the Dominican Republic 5-2 during the final game of the first round.
Puerto Rico improved their record against the Dominican Republic to 3-2 all-time head-head while playing in the World Baseball Classic, after using eight pitchers across the game, but was dealt a blow when closer Edwin Diaz, having secured a three-out save with 21 pitches, injured his knee during the on-field celebration.
Puerto Rico manager Yadier Molina felt a lot of confidence on assigning starting pitcher Fernando Cruz as he went 1.2 innings giving up one hit, walking two batters, no earned runs, and striking out two batters for the game.
Puerto Rico got on the board first during the top of the third inning, when Christian Vazquez roped a solo home run to left field for the first run of the game. A few batters after, Francisco Lindor drove a line drive single to center field and Vimael Machin came in to score to make it 2-0.
The next batter, Enrique Hernandez, added another run ona ground ball single to left field, scoring Martin Maldonado for a 3-0 lead. They’d add another when MJ Melendez grounded out to second baseman Ketel Marte as Lindor came into score extending the lead to 4-0.
During the bottom of the third inning, the Dominican Republic got their first run of the game as Juan Soto drove a 448-foot solo home run to dead center field.
In the top of the fifth inning, Puerto Rico’s Lindor drove a single to center field and center fielder Julio Rodriguez misplayed the hop, and the ball rolled all the way to the wall. Lindor raced around the bases to score on the three-base fielding error by Rodriguez and Puerto Rico went up 5-1.
The Dominican Republic struggled offensively through the game, leaving 14 runners on base.
Puerto Rico closer Edwin Diaz came in to the ninth inning and at ease struck out the side in order 1-2-3 as he got Teoscar Hernandez striking out looking to end the game and advance to the quarterfinals.
During the celebration Diaz suffered an apparent leg injury. The whole team stood stunned beside him and attempted to carry Diaz off the field before he was carried off by the Puerto Rico medical staff, whole Diaz’ brother and teammate Alexis shed tears watching his brother leaving the field.
“I mean, I don’t see it that way. I was hugging our coaches in the dugout. Then when we looked up, Edwin was on the ground. I didn’t know. I didn’t know how to act, I didn’t know how to — what to say. I mean, I didn’t know. It got me for a surprise,” Molina said.
“It’s hard. We were with high energy. I didn’t know what was going on, I was in the outfield. I celebrated with Eddie and when we got to the infield, we realized what was going on and I don’t know exactly what happened,” Hernandez as well got to speak with the media during the postgame press conference of last nights game and how he thought of what happened with Diaz’s injury during the end of the game.
Puerto Rico’s pitching staff allowed six hits, two earned runs, walking four batters, and struck out 11 during Wednesday’s win, but will now have to figure out have to call up their bullpen for late-game situations.
“No, we still don’t have the update. He’s undergoing some tests and later tonight I believe that we will have an update of what’s going on. But right now we don’t have anything,” said Yadier Molina at the postgame press conference when asked about Diaz’s injury status.
Puerto Rico has reached the championship game in the last two tournaments losing to the Dominican Republic in 2013 and losing to the United States in 2017. The next test for Puerto Rico will be against a scary Mexico team that is also hungry for a deep run as well in the 2023 World Baseball Classic.
Puerto Rico is the Pool D runner-up and will play Mexico, who won Pool C, in the single-elimination quarterfinals on Friday at 7 p.m. EDT on Fox Sports 1 at Loan Depot Park in Miami.