By Lewis Rubman
Puerto Rico (2-4) 3 5 9
Dominican Republic (5-1) 4 7 1
HATO REY, PUERTO RICO–Right after Puerto Rico’s gut wrenching 5-4 loss to the Dominican Republic in the last game of this year’s Caribbean Series, some one asked José Valentín, the manager of Puerto Rico’s team, the Santurce Cangrejeros (Crabbers), how he felt about fellow Puerto Rican Lino Rivera managing the Dominican entry. Knowing that the two teams would face each other again, in the following day’s one and done semi-final, Valentín answered, “All I can see is that for one of us, it’ll be his last game.”
That following day was last night, and it was Valentín would managed his last game of the Series.
For a long time, it looked as if it would be the other way round. The Santurce Cangrejeros (Crabbers), representing the Island of Enchantment, got off to any early lead, but in a way that boded ill for the team’s hopes for the championship.
The Puerto Rican squad loaded the bases, with one out in the top of the second and Cuban right hander Yunesky Maya on the mound for the Dominicans. Roberto Peña then reached first on a bunt single-quite a move for a catcher-as Raymond Fuentes crossed the plate and the two other runners moved up a base. Henry Ramos smacked a hard single to right, driving in Ozzie Martínez, Jan Hernández following closely on his heels.
But Junior Lake made a magnificent throw from right field, but home plate umpire Emil Jiménez called the runner safe, to the mostly Puerto Rican crowd’s delight. That was the start of the foreboding, because review umpire Iván Mercado reversed the decision, killing the rally.
The Dominicans chipped a run of Puerto Rico’s lead, but they got that back in the fifth. Puerto Rico quickly added a run in their half of the sixth. The Dominican cut Puerto Rico’s 3-2 lead to 3-2 in their half of that inning and almost eliminated it entirely.
A walk,a single, and a stolen base, followed by Wilken Castillo’s infield single scored a run and put men on first and second with no one out. They moved up a base on an infield out. Gustavo Núñez hit what looked like a sacrifice fly, but Jan Hernández did his best Ramón Laureano imitation, and threw Abraham Almonte out at the plate. It was Junior Lake’s second inning throw to the plate all over again, down to the long wait before the the result of the replay was announced.
It was now the bottom of the eighth, and the bottom fell out of Puerto Rico’s chances. Facing number 13 Nicholas Padilla, Jordany Espín singled to right. Peter O’Brien sent him to third with a double to center. Francisco Cruz came into the game to relieve Padilla and uncorked a wild pitch, which allowed Espín to score and Alen Hanson, pinch running for O’Brien to advance to third. Almonte lofted a sacrifice fly to center, and the Domincan led, 4-3.
Fernando Abad, who had entered the game to get the final out in the top of the eighth, got the side out in the ninth and the win. It was a good game for players with Oakland connections. Jorge Mateo went one for three, raising his average for the Series to .250.
Padilla took the loss.
The Dominican Toros del Este take on the Venezuelan Lara Cardenales for the Series crown tomorrow night at 8:00.