GUADALAJARA, Mexico -- An emotional night for Puerto Rico at Estadio de Beisbol Charros de Jalisco ended in victory and peaceful conversation on the podium and put the island one step closer to advancing to the next round in San Diego.Before Puerto Rico pulled away in the ninth inning for
GUADALAJARA, Mexico -- An emotional night for Puerto Rico at Estadio de Beisbol Charros de Jalisco ended in victory and peaceful conversation on the podium and put the island one step closer to advancing to the next round in San Diego.
Before Puerto Rico pulled away in the ninth inning for a 9-4 victory, a fracas in the stands near the family section brought the entire team out of the dugout and onto the warning track in the outfield near the third-base line. Javier Baez was among the most animated players on the field during the disruption.
:: 2017 World Baseball Classic ::
"All I heard was [Puerto Rico manager] Edwin [Rodriguez] saying, 'Go back to the dugout,'" Baez said. "I thought it was my team, and when I saw the brawl was in the family section, I saw my family and everybody's family trying to separate and try to be safe. Well, I got a little bit desperate, yes, because I hadn't seen what happened, but everything was under control. My family said that everything was OK."
The win against Mexico on Saturday night improved Puerto Rico's record to 2-0 in Pool D play. A Puerto Rico win against Italy in the first game of a doubleheader Sunday will qualify it for the next round.
"Going 2-0, for the last game of the round, we're going to approach the game the same way we've been approaching the first two games, one pitch at a time, and we're going to be playing to win," Rodriguez said. "We are a very good team, and we're going to play to win. We're going to make some changes in the lineup, but still, we feel we have a very good offense still in the lineup."
A victory Sunday will also keep them on course for a rematch that's been four years in the making.
The reigning World Baseball Classic champions from the Dominican Republic are 2-0 in Pool C play in Miami and also close to securing a spot in San Diego. In 2013, the Dominican Republic defeated Puerto Rico, 3-0, in the Classic championship game in San Francisco.
For his part, Puerto Rico shortstop Francisco Lindor said he's trying not to look too far in advance. Instead, he's concentrating on the present.
"Any victory is good, but this is ensuring something good," Lindor said. "It's not over yet, but the work here continues in Mexico. We have to play strong [Sunday]."
Sunday's matchup won't be an easy one. Italy is 1-1 after defeating Mexico, 10-9, with five runs in the bottom of the ninth in the first game of pool play Thursday. Italy was defeated by Venezuela, 11-10, in extra innings Saturday afternoon.
The World Baseball Classic runs through March 22. In the U.S., games air live exclusively in English on MLB Network and on an authenticated basis via MLBNetwork.com/watch, while ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN provide the exclusive Spanish-language coverage. MLB.TV Premium subscribers in the U.S. have access to watch every tournament game live on any of the streaming service's 400-plus supported devices. The tournament is being distributed internationally across all forms of television, internet, mobile and radio in territories excluding the U.S., Puerto Rico and Japan. Get tickets for games at Marlins Park, Tokyo Dome, Estadio Charros de Jalisco in Mexico, Petco Park, as well as the Championship Round at Dodger Stadium, while complete coverage -- including schedules, video, stats and gear -- is available at WorldBaseballClassic.com.
"They have been waiting for this tournament for four years, and coming in here and not giving 100 percent in one game is inconceivable," Rodriguez said. "We have very good talent, very good youth. We're going to play hard [Sunday].
Lindor paced Puerto Rico's offense with three hits, including a pair of home runs. Carlos Beltran also had three hits while Baez, Edwin Rosario and Angel Pagan had two hits each. Baez's three-run home run in the ninth inning put the game away.
"You know, we came today to play our first game. We won yesterday, and we go into this game like it's still 0-0," Baez said. "[We] keep playing hard, obviously play the game right, and just keep having fun. That's all we're doing in our dugout, and we're going to come [Sunday] like it's our first game and play hard again."
Jesse Sanchez, who has been writing for MLB.com since 2001, is a national reporter based in Phoenix. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB and Facebook.