Dominican Republic firing on all cylinders just in time for Puerto Rico

March 15th, 2023

MIAMI – With a lineup that has Juan Soto, Manny Machado, Rafael Devers and countless other superstars, it’s easy to fall in love with the offense the Dominican Republic features in this World Baseball Classic.

And while that offense may just be starting to click on all cylinders, it’s actually been the Dominican Republic’s pitching staff that has set the tone. A night after allowing one run to Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic used four pitchers to shut out Israel on just one hit in a 10-0 run-rule walk-off win in seven innings on Tuesday at loanDepot park.

With the victory, the Dominican Republic improved to 2-1 in Pool D play. They’ll face Puerto Rico on Wednesday in a win-or-go-home game between the two Caribbean rivals, a matchup that is sure to provide a raucous atmosphere in Miami. As for Israel, its tournament will come to an end on Wednesday against Venezuela after falling to 1-2 in pool play.

“To me, well, my expectation for tomorrow, our expectation, is to come out and compete,” said center fielder Julio Rodríguez. “We know that [Puerto Rico] is a very good team. We are going to compete, play our brand of baseball, and the result will be there in the end. We’ll go out and compete. Let the best team win.”

Right-hander Roansy Contreras got the start for the Dominican Republic and was sharp over 2 2/3 innings of work, allowing no runs on just one hit. He also struck out four.

Behind Contreras, the Dominican Republic ran out numerous pitchers who flashed upper-90s on the radar gun. Génesis Cabrera tossed 1 1/3 scoreless innings while Luis Ortiz chipped in with two scoreless frames of his own.

“It was a really good game,” Dominican Republic manager Rodney Linares said. “The guys swung the bat well, but the most important thing is we didn’t have to use our [high-leverage relievers]. You know, we shut them down, and guys came up big. The young bucks came up big early, Contreras and Ortiz. Cabrera did a great job. So we’re happy.”

Those pitching performances bought the D.R. enough time to get their bats going. Eloy Jiménez got the scoring started in the first inning with an RBI single to drive in Soto, who once again batted leadoff and opened the game with a double.

In the third, Machado sent a ball to the Budweiser porch in deep left-center field to give the D.R. a 2-0 lead. Machado’s blast had an exit velocity of 110.8 mph and traveled 437 feet. The Padres’ star has now homered in back-to-back games and has three homers in his WBC career.

Behind Machado again, the Dominican Republic’s offense started to look more like itself in the sixth, breaking the game open with a four-run frame. Julio Rodríguez got the scoring started in the inning with a two-RBI double. Machado then followed with a two-run single to right field, extending the lead to 7-0.

In the bottom of the seventh, with most of its starters already out of the lineup, the Dominicans showed off their depth. Robinson Canó, Nelson Cruz and Jean Segura, each of whom had seen limited at-bats in this tournament, all came up with base knocks. Segura’s hit drove in two and walked the game off, starting the Dominican party in Miami.

Cruz, the team’s general manager, also played right field for an inning and recorded a putout in his first outfield action since 2018.

“Compared to the 2017 team, I think this one has more talent,” Segura said. “It’s a well-balanced team. It’s so exciting to be part of this team. Even when you don’t have the chance to play a lot. Everyone wants to play. Everyone wants to show the Dominican Republic what they’re made of. We’re going to have a very good Dominican team for many years to come.”

Through four days of action in Pool D, the atmospheres inside loanDepot park have surpassed everyone’s already sky-high expectations. Every game has felt like a postseason matchup with loud and passionate fans. But Wednesday night’s game between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic will be must-watch television for any baseball fan.

The two Caribbean countries have a long rivalry. They have a lot of similarities. But nothing unites them like their love for baseball. Every TV in the respective islands will be watching. Only one fan base will come out celebrating. 

“It’s not the same when you have 12 million Dominicans supporting you,” Segura said. “Dominican fans let you know when you are doing well and when you’re playing bad. So it’s a double pressure. But it’s important to play for your fans. We love them.”