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Updated: January 22, 2021
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Copyright © 1997-2021
Grand Slam/Marco Stoovelaar
Compiled and Copyright © 1997-2021 by Marco Stoovelaar

(Story by Marco Stoovelaar; Photo by Henk Seppen)

Criollos opens Puerto Rican Final with shutout

SAN JUAN (Puerto Rico) - Criollos de Caguas shutout Indios de Mayagüez 4-0 on Thursday-evening (January 21) in the opener of the best-of-seven Championship Final of the Liga de Béisbol Profesional de Puerto Rico Roberto Clemente. The first game of the Final was played at Estadio Hiram Bithorn in capital San Juan, which is the temporary home-site of Criollos. The second game will be played on Saturday in Mayagüez.

Criollos struck early by scoring three runs in the bottom of the first inning. The team added its fourth run in the eighth. Indios was limited to only two basehits.

Criollos-starter José De León dominated in the six innings he pitched. The righthander struckout twelve batters and gave up the two basehits that Indios collected in this game. Three relievers then completed the game and held Indios both hitless and scoreless.

After De León had retired the side in the top of the first inning (two strikeouts), his teammates rallied for three runs in the bottom of the first inning off of Héctor Hernández. Johneshwy Fargas led off with a double and Jarren Duran walked, then both scored on a following triple by Yadier Molina, who was the designated hitter. With one out, Molina scored on a grounder by Victor Caratini to make it a 3-0 score. With two outs, Vimael Machin doubled and, then tried to score on a single by Jonathan Morales, but was eliminated at the plate.

A week ago, permission was granted that allowed Yadier Molina to play for Atenienses de Manatí in the remainder of the Semi-Final against Indios. In the three games, Molina played at first base or was the DH for Atenienses, which was swept. Molina batted .250 and scored two runs. In the Puerto Rican season, Molina was on the reserve-list for Gigangtes de Carolina, which was eliminated for the Play-Offs. The permission was granted based on an amendment in the league-rules. According to Tournament Director Carlos Berroa this is to give elite players the opportunity to play before fans in Puerto Rico.

...Yadier Molina hitting for Puerto Rico...
...during the 2017 World Baseball Classic...
(© Photo: Henk Seppen)
On Wednesday, after completion of the Play-Offs and according to the rules, both finalists were allowed to add one player each for the Championship Final coming from the eliminated teams. Criollos de Caguas (which had the first choice) added catcher Yadier Molina, while Indios de Mayagüez added lefthanded pitcher Joel Huertas. He pitched for RA12, which was swept by Criollos in the Play-Offs.

Since 2004, the 38-year old 'Yadi' Molina played in the Major League for St. Louis Cardinals with whom he won the World Series in 2006 and 2011. After the 2020 season, Molina became a Free Agent. The catcher participated in all four World Baseball Classics with the National Team of Puerto Rico (2006, 2009, 2013, 2017).

After giving up the three runs in the first inning, Indios-starter Hector Hernández recovered and also did fine in the next innings. Criollos got some runners in scoring position, but was held scoreless from the second inning on.

Indios never got into scoring position. In the second inning, Christian Colón singled with two outs and in the sixth, Henry Ramos singled with one out. Both stranded on first base, as did Kennys Vargas, who walked with two outs in the fifth. José De Léon retired the side three times, then his three successors did the same in the next three innings.

In the bottom of the eighth inning, Criollos added its fourth run off of reliever Willie Rios, who then took over from starter Héctor Hernández. Rios gave up a lead-off double to José Miranda. His pinch-runner Jancarlos Cintrón later scored on a sacrifice fly from Jonathan Morales off of new pitcher Jean Cosme.

(January 21)

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