The World Baseball Classic returned to San Diego tonight for the first time since 2009, and it started with a fantastic matchup. Puerto Rico faced off against the Dominican Republic. It was likely the most anticipated game of the round, as the two Latin American powerhouses won their respective first-round pools and feature plenty of All-Stars. Puerto Rico was led by Yadier Molina alongside 2016 World Series rivals Francisco Lindor and Javier Baez, while the Dominican Republic featured master bat flipper Jose Bautista, Nelson Cruz, and Robinson Cano.
The Dominican team got the game started pretty well, with Jean Segura leading off with a single. Manny Machado followed that with a double, and then Orlando Roman walked Robinson Cano to load the bases with nobody out. Roman turned around and struck out Joey Bats. A fly out to right field by Carlos Santana seemed prime to put DR on the board, but Eddie Rosario fired a missile to Molina, who in turn applied a gorgeous tag to turn the double play and end the inning.
Molina did more great work in the bottom half of the first. Lindor and Carlos Correa drew back-to-back one-out walks, and then Carlos Beltran flied out to bring up the All-Star catcher with two outs. Yadi dropped a perfectly blooped single into left field to score Lindor and get on the board.
The Puerto Rican lead didn’t last long, as Nelson Cruz led off the second with a home run into the center field beach area. The umpires took another look at the play, as video showed the fan who caught the ball extending his hands over the fence, but the play stood as called.
The tie held until the fourth inning, when Puerto Rico picked up an unearned run. Javier Baez hit what looked like a pretty routine grounder to third base, but Adrian Beltre airmailed the throw to first and Baez took second without a problem. Rosario hit a ground rule double to take a lead they wouldn’t give up. Molina added an insurance run in the sixth with a no-doubt bomb to left field.
If tonight’s game is any indication of what we can expect for the rest of the week, there’s going to be some great baseball at Petco Park. Tomorrow Venezuela takes on Team USA at 6:00 PM.