Puerto Rico Opens Pool D Play With Big Win Over Nicaragua

Puerto Rico Win Nicaragua

Miami, Florida – Team Puerto Rico began its quest to finally win a world title with a 9-1 win over Nicaragua at loanDepot park. Carlos Rodriguez, the Milwaukee Brewers’ 13th prospect, was on the mound for Nicaragua facing Marcus Stroman, Team USA’s winning pitcher in the 2017 championship. It’s the country’s first tournament appearance, failing to qualify in ’13 and ’17.

With runners at the corners and one out, Emmanuel Rivera hit a grounder to second baseman Alex Blandino. Nicaragua failed to complete the double play allowing Francisco Lindor to score making it 1-0 in the first frame. Stroman was cruising keeping Nicaragua hitless after his first trip through the lineup. Elian Miranda tied it up in the fifth inning smacking a clutch home run to left field electrifying the Nicaraguan crowd.

Puerto Rico immediately countered via five runs on five hits including a two-RBI single from MJ Melendez. JC Ramirez had replaced Rodriguez who kept PR’s star-studded lineup largely contained. Striking out Eddie Rosario, Ramirez walked Christian Vazquez before allowing four consecutive hits. Lindor singled on a ground ball to first baseman Wuillians Vasquez, plating Vazquez to break the deadlock. Javier Baez capped off the huge inning by hitting an RBI single scoring Melendez.

The seventh saw Puerto Rico tack on three more runs, all made with two outs. Kevin Gadea replaced Junior Tellez giving up a walk and a double before a defensive error at third base cost Nicaragua a run. Fidencio Flores relieved Gadea, surrendering a two-run single to Vazquez. PR ultimately proved to be way too much for the new guys.

Impressions

It was an exciting, though very expected outcome. Heading into the tournament, Nicaragua’s strength is the pitching relying on the services of Major Leaguers Erasmo Ramirez and Jonathan Loaisiga. However, PR took control from the fifth inning onwards. Both starters put up at least four innings keeping the contest close. Things rapidly changed when Puerto Rico barraged Nicaragua’s relievers after a slow first half putting the game out of reach by the seventh-inning stretch.

The team is stacked with its biggest stars returning from a 2017 campaign that ended with their second straight loss in the WBC’s championship game. Although Yadier Molina is no longer on the roster after participating in the previous four events, transitioning to managing the team itself, this year’s edition remains very potent.

I was happy to see Rodriguez (4 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 K) on the mound taking on big-league hitting and getting a taste of what it’s like. Remember the kid hasn’t even touched Double-A ball yet. Outside of the homer to Miranda, Stroman’s outing (4.2 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 2 K) was near flawless. Watching Nicaragua tie the game up was pretty sensational. For a very short time, it gave the impression of a thriller. Maybe not an upset but a close affair. Alas, the underdogs could not match the star power of their Caribbean opponents. I can’t wait to see how the rest of the weekend plays out covering the games. Puerto Rico kicking it off with a win over Nicaragua is only the beginning.

Nicaragua will look to regroup against Israel Sunday afternoon while Puerto Rico plays Venezuela in the night game.

Photo | World Baseball Classic

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