February 5, 2020
By Lewis Rubman
Colombia (0-4) 2 5 3
Puerto Rico (2-2) 3 10 0
HATO REY, PUERTO RICO–Last night’s contest between Colombia’s champions, the Montería Vaqueros (which is the Spanish word from which our “buckeroos” is derived) and the host Santurce Cangrejeros, or Crabbers, had loads of the ingredients that make baseball fun: speedy base running, outfield assists, close plays, a close score, an enthusiastic crowd, and, of course, a local angle for the fan. Just the thing to cap off the fourth straight day filled with three games and four straight nights filled with little sleep.
Wasted opportunities are frustrating. In baseball, they’re also fun. Every chance to achieve something – a shut down inning, a run, a double play, a stolen base- carries with it the excitement of being on the verge of a desired attainment. And last night’s game had its share. I can’t begin to list all of them, but I can point out a few examples.
Take Puerto Rico’s half of third inning. The Crabbers held a one run advantage over the Buckaroos. Jack López led off with a single and advanced to second when Colombia’s center fielder, Andy Vásquez, lost control of the ball. A sequence like that is an invitation to score. But pitcher Julio Vivas promptly withdrew the invitation by picking López off second. Notice that two mistakes were involved in this scenario, bad fielding and bad base running. Interesting or exciting baseball is not necessarily good baseball
In the top of the seventh, with the score knotted at two all, Vásquez laced a single to center. Arvicent Pérez followed this up with a single to right. Vásquez never stopped on his way to third, where he was cut down by a laser throw from right fielder Jan Hernández that would have put Ramón Liriano to shame. Of course, Colombia challenged the call, but it was upheld.
A lousy throw can afford as much excitement as a great one. Earlier in the game, after Colombia had tied the score at one all on a fifth inning solo homer by Vásquez, the men from Montería jumped to a brief, one run lead in the sixth. Andrés Angulo led off with a walk and stole second. Jordan Díaz singled him home and went to second on the throw. Francisco Acuña sacrificed Díaz to second, but he kept on running. Seeing this, catcher Roberto Peña threw the ball towards third. Towards, not to. Left fielder David Vidal retrieved the errant missile and fired it to Peña, who put the tag on the overly ambitious Díaz. At this point, Devin Raftery relieved starter Héctor Hernández and struck out Rey Fuentes to get the final out of the inning.
There was drama when Puerto Rico went ahead in the eighth, using bunts and bunt attempts (including a couple by the fifth spot hitter) before Andury Acevedo plunked Jonathan Morales on a 3-0 count with the bases loaded to force in the winning run.
As for the local angle. That was provided by the Vaqueros’ first baseman, Alberto Callaspo.