Puerto Rico eliminates Dominican Republic in WBC, but loses Edwin Diaz to knee injury

Jeff PassanESPN4 minute read

MIAMI — Puerto Rico ousted the World Baseball Classic favorite Dominican Republic on Wednesday night with a 5-2 win in front of a raucous crowd of 36,025 at the sold-out LoanDepot Park. But the festive mood proved to be short-lived.

While Puerto Rico advanced to the quarterfinals, they likely continue in the tournament without Edwin Díaz, the All-Star closest to the New York Mets, who injured his right knee after converting the stoppage. , leaving players in shock following what should have been a thrilling victory.

In a battle between two Latin American powerhouses, the dyed-blonde team prevailed, escaping the Pool D death squad and setting up a quarter-final showdown on Saturday night against Pool C winners Mexico. Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic lost to Pool D winners Venezuela earlier, a game that already had huge emotional implications took on even more meaning as a win-or-go-home affair. .

With vuvuzelas whistling and waving flags and a man clutching a plantain in the waistband of his jeans, a tribute to the banana power that led the Dominican Republic to the 2013 championship in a clash between the teams, Puerto Rico got their revenge. Gone, thanks to a four-point flurry in the third inning from Puerto Rico, was a Dominican Republic squad whose roster included Juan Soto, Julio Rodríguez, Manny Machado and Rafael Devers, along with a bullpen of devastating weapons that made the favorite win the fifth edition of the tournament.

Puerto Rico’s thrilling victory Wednesday night in the World Baseball Classic was overshadowed by an injury to closest All-Star Edwin Diaz.Sam Navarro / USA TODAY Sports

Never mind Puerto Rico. Led by manager Yadier Molina, the 10-time All-Star who at the last WBC in 2017 caught for the team that lost in the Finals to the United States, Puerto Rico had five straight hits to start the third and never looked back.

Christian Vazquez started off with a home run against starter DR Johnny Cueto. Vimael Machin slapped a left single, Martin Maldonado dropped a bunt single, Francisco Lindor drove Machin in with a left single and Enrique Hernández tackled Maldonado with a Baltimore chop single over Machado’s head . An RBI groundout from MJ Melendez staked Puerto Rico with a 4-0 advantage.

Soto cut it with a titanic shot to start the bottom of Jovani Moran’s third, tossing a 92 mph 448 fastball from dead center. Puerto Rico responded when Lindor scored through the middle in the fifth and Rodríguez misplayed the ball, which dribbled towards the wall and allowed Lindor to book around the goals and extend the lead to 5–1.

The bottom of the fifth presented what turned out to be the DR’s last opportunity. Against Alexis Díaz they charged the goals with a pair of steps and a single. With no outs and bases loaded, Machado stepped in. A swing later, he sunk into a double play. Although a run scored, Díaz escaped the rest of the inning without damage, and Puerto Rico’s bullpen held firm until the ninth inning.

When the bullpen door opened, Alexis’ brother, Edwin, the best baseball player, came out, accompanied by “Narco”, the entrance music that usually accompanies him at Citi Field. Díaz then knocked out Ketel Marte, Jean Segura and Teoscar Hernández.

Diaz was quickly swarmed by his teammates after the final; the group was jumping together in the infield when Díaz collapsed to the ground near the pitcher’s mound, and he immediately reached his right knee.

Díaz was in tears and did not put weight on the leg as a trainer and trainer helped him limp to the dugout. He was then placed in a wheelchair in foul territory with his right knee strained. He waved to the fans as he walked off the pitch

Díaz’s brother Alexis, who plays for the Cincinnati Reds, was also crying as Edwin was carried away. Lindor, Edwin’s Mets teammate, stood nearby with his hands on his head.

THE Mets said in a statement about an hour after the game, Díaz injured his right knee and would undergo imaging on Thursday.

Puerto Rico manager Yadier Molina said Díaz also underwent tests at the stadium.

“I was hugging our coaches in the dugout. Then when we looked up Edwin was on the ground,” Molina said. “I didn’t know. I didn’t know how to act, I didn’t know how — what to say. I mean, I didn’t know. It surprised me.

“Like I said in the dugout, it sucks, sorry, but when you see a guy working so hard like Edwin, I mean when you see him on the floor like that, I mean it’s just sad .”

Hernandez said the locker room was calm after Díaz’s injury.

“It’s a certain point that’s bigger than the game,” Hernandez said. “It’s very unfortunate that this happened. As excited as we were about the game and all of it, he’s one of our brothers.”

Díaz, 28, is a two-time All-Star and two-time reliever of the year. He converted 32 saves for the Mets last season with a 1.31 ERA and 118 strikeouts in 62 innings.

Díaz is seen as a key contributor for the Mets, who have World Series aspirations after owner Steve Cohen’s latest spending spree pushed the club’s projected payroll to around $370 million. Díaz re-signed with the Mets in November for $102 million over five years — the biggest contract for a reliever in baseball history.

ESPN’s Alden Gonzalez and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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