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Puerto Rico 5, Dominican Republic 2; Jubilation Turned Disastrous

Puerto Rico advances, but they’ll be without Edwin Díaz for the rest of the WBC.

World Baseball Classic Pool D: Puerto Rico v Dominican Republic Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images

It was a fantastic evening of baseball, perhaps the loudest one that loanDepot park has ever experienced...until shortly after the final out. As hard as it may be, let’s break down the rollercoaster of emotions from Wednesday’s win-or-go-home World Baseball Classic matchup.

Johnny’s home

Veteran right-hander Johnny Cueto made the most of his first career start representing the home team at loanDepot park. Having recently signed with the Miami Marlins, Cueto got a chance to test out the mound at his new home ballpark as he faced off against Puerto Rico in the Pool D finale. He put his recent struggles in Spring Training behind him in the first inning, and he faced the minimum six batters through two innings on just 19 pitches.

But in the third inning, Christian Vázquez sent a middle-middle 90.2 MPH fastball into the D.R. bullpen to give Puerto Rico an early lead. And if we’ve learned anything from the previous games involving Team Rubio, you've already lost once that crowd gets into the game. Vimael Machín followed up with a single to left, and the building shook as Martín Maldonado reached base on a drag bunt, putting a smile on the faces of those who love a bit of chaos (like me).

D.R. manager Rodney Linares made his way out to the mound to remove Johnny with runners on first and second and no outs in the top of the third inning. 25-year-old Astros right-hander Bryan Abreu was given the ball to try and limit the damage.

Abreu was unsuccessful. Francisco Lindor smacked a line drive into center field to score Machín and move Maldonado to second. Enrique Hernández snuck a ball through to left field to score Maldonado and move Lindor to third. Then, MJ Melendez pushed Lindor home with an RBI groundout to second base. The inning would end with Javier Baez striking out, but Puerto Rico had a 4-0 lead, and it was so loud—103 decibels, according to my watch—that you couldn’t hear yourself think.

Juan Soto to the moon!

Every once in a while, we are reminded that this ballpark used to be much larger. Juan Soto sent a chill down the spine of the Puerto Rican bench as he sent a pitch from Jovani Moran out to a spot that I haven’t seen touched since Giancarlo Stanton’s days as a Marlin. In fact, his home run went beyond the original dimensions of this park, back when the center field wall curved behind the home run sculpture. A 448-footer at 110.2 MPH takes your breath away.

The Dominican Republic was on the board, narrowing Puerto Rico’s lead to just 4-1.

Chaos in its purest form

The score would remain 4-1 as both teams traded blows in the form of slick defensive plays to rob each other of crucial extra bases.

That was until the top of the fifth when Francisco Lindor hit a line drive straight at Julio Rodriguez in center field. So he got a single, right? Wrong! Julio misplayed the hop, and the ball rolled all the way to the track. Lindor turned on the jets and raced around the bases for a “Little League home run.”

It’s a single with a three-base fielding error by Julio in the book, but a homer in our hearts. 5-1, Puerto Rico.

The crowd got even louder as Enrique Hernández lined a ball past the sliding Eloy Jiménez in right field and raced around the bases for what we thought would be a triple, but Julio fielded the ball on the track and fired a relay throw that beat Enrique to third base. A review upheld the out call at third, much to the chagrin of the Puerto Rican fans, and Hernández was credited with a double and was thrown out 8-4-5.

Shut the door

Alexis Díaz worked out of a bases-loaded, no-outs jam in the bottom of the fifth, getting Manny Machado to ground into a double play and Rafael Devers to pop out, allowing just one run to score. The rest of the Puerto Rican staff combined to shut down a potent lineup throughout the remainder of the game, allowing two hits in the bottom of the sixth and not a single baserunner after that.


With Puerto Rico leading 5-2, it was time for New York Mets closer Edwin Díaz to do his thing. The building was abuzz as “Narco” played over the PA while Edwin made his trot to the mound. And he didn’t disappoint. He struck out Ketel Marte on four pitches for the first out, pinch-hitter Jean Segura on seven pitches for the second out, and pinch-hitter Teoscar Hernández on ten pitches to seal the deal.

The game was over, Puerto Rico advanced, and the heavily favored Dominican Republic was sent home.

It surprised many that Rodney Linares waited until so late in the game to start making any offensive substitutions. Still, he defended his decision, answering multiple iterations of the same question: “We put the players that we thought would be successful against them, Puerto Rico played better than us, and we have to recognize that.”


Puerto Rico players take a knee as pitcher Edwin Diaz (not pictured) gets checked on by training staff after an apparent leg injury during the team celebration against Dominican Republic at LoanDepot Park. Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Seconds after the final out was recorded, Edwin’s teammates mobbed him in front of the mound. All were jumping up and down after winning one of the biggest games of their careers.

In the press box, most reporters were looking down at their laptops as they typed out the final sentences of their game stories. I was still recording the celebration on my phone and knew something was wrong when I saw players waving toward the dugout while others held their heads in horror. A few moments later, I saw what we all feared through my binoculars. I couldn’t believe my eyes and even less so my mouth when I loudly said to those around me, “guys, that’s Edwin!”

We watched in disbelief as they struggled to help Edwin off the field, with him not being able to put any weight on his right leg. They placed him in a wheelchair, and he raised his fist to a roaring crowd as they pushed him down the tunnel. Most in the crowd were unsure whether to celebrate the win or cry about what they just saw.

The aftermath

Rodney Linares was up first in the postgame press conferences. He defended his management of the Dominican Republic during their shorter-than-expected tournament run and took full responsibility for the loss.

Then a distraught Yadier Molina (Puerto Rico’s manager) made his way to the dais and informed us that Edwin was undergoing testing and there was no update at the time. To my shock, I was actually given the microphone to ask Molina what went through his mind when the injury to Edwin happened:

“I was in the dugout hugging the coaches. When we looked up, Edwin was on the ground...It got me by surprise. It sucks. When you see a guy that works so hard like Edwin on the ground like that, it’s just sad.”

His sentiments were echoed by Enrique Hernández.

“It’s quiet,” Hernández said describing the atmosphere of the victorious clubhouse. “At a certain point, it becomes bigger than the game...It definitely doesn’t feel like we just beat the Dominican Republic to advance.”

Noah’s Notes and What’s Next

  • That was one of the most exciting baseball games I’ve ever experienced in my life. It’s a shame that it ended the way it did.
  • Another sellout at loanDepot park:

  • Edwin Díaz has been diagnosed with a “full thickness tear of the patellar tendon in his right knee.” He will undergo surgery to repair it and is expected to miss a minimum of 6-8 months, most likely meaning he will not play for the New York Mets during the 2023 season.
  • The Dominican Republic has been eliminated from the 2023 World Baseball Classic.
  • Puerto Rico advances to the quarterfinals and will face off against Mexico on Friday at 7 PM at loanDepot park.
  • My next day of coverage will be the first semifinal on Sunday at 7 PM.
  • ‘Til Next Time