(Story by Marco Stoovelaar)
Criollos wins third consecutive game in Puerto Rican Final
SAN JUAN (Puerto Rico) -
Criollos de Caguas is one victory away from the title, as the team also won the third game of the best-of-seven Championship Final of the Liga de Béisbol Profesional de Puerto Rico Roberto Clemente on Saturday (January 23).
In Game 3, Criollos won 7-3 against Indios de Mayagüez.
Criolles opened the Series with a 4-0 shutout-victory on Thursday, then won 7-5 on Friday.
Game 4 will be played on Sunday.
In Game 3, Criollos trailed briefly, then led only 2-1 after six innings.
In the seventh, Indios came alongside, then Criollos answered with two runs and decided the game with a 3-run rally in the eighth.
Criollos collected nine basehits, including a 3-run homerun by Jarren Duran, who batted in four runs.
Indios opened the score in the top of the first inning off of Criollos-starter Tommy Romero.
The American righthander ran into problems quickly, but gave up only one run.
Henry Ramos led off with a single, then moved to third base on a single by next batter Jack López, who ended up on second base on an outfield-error.
Ramos scored when Iván De Jesús, Jr. also singled.
López tried to advance to third base, but was eliminated there.
That was costly, as next batter Emmanuel Rivera doubled and the bases got loaded when Danny Ortíz was hit by a pitch.
The next two batters flied out and so, Romero escaped out of this jam and gave up only one run.
Criollos was retired in order by Indios-starter Luis Medina in its first at bat, but came alongside in the second.
With two outs, the Dominican righthander gave up a double to Vimael Machín, who then advanced on a wild pitch and scored on a single by Jonathan Morales.
Criollos took the lead in the fourth when, with one out, José Miranda doubled, moved on a grounder and scored on another wild pitch from Medina.
The next two innings stayed scoreless.
Indios was retired in order in the fifth, then left runners on first and second in the sixth.
Criollos stranded a runner on third base in the fifth and also left runners on first and second base in its sixth at bat.
In the top of the seventh, Indios came alongside off of reliever Anthony Maldonado.
He gave up a lead-off single to Jack López, who then moved on a sacrifice bunt and scored on a 2-out double by Danny Ortíz.
Criollos immediately reacted with two runs in the bottom of the seventh.
New pitcher Robby Rowland hit lead-off hitter Edwin Díaz, who was replaced by pinch-runner Luis Vázquez.
The latter advanced on a single by Johneshwy Fargas, then moved to third base on a following error in the outfield.
Both runners went on to score.
Vázquez on a double by Jarren Duran and Fargas on a sacrifice fly by Yadier Molina.
With a runner on third base and Criollos now leading 4-2, Holden Capps took over the pitching.
He began with an intentional walk, then got the bases loaded with two outs when he issued a normal walk.
But a force out ended the at bat.
Indios narrowed the deficit to 4-3 in the top of the eighth off of new pitcher Rayan González.
T.J. Rivera and Brian Navarreto both reached on an error and advanced on a sacrifice bunt.
Henry Ramos followed with a single, Rivera scored, but Navarreto was thrown out at the plate.
Criollos then decided the game by scoring three runs in the bottom of the eighth.
Saul Rivera was the new pitcher for Indios, but walked lead-off hitter Rey Fuentes.
He was forced out on a grounder by Luis Vázquez, then Johneshwy Fargas singled.
Another pitching change followed.
Yacksel Ríos took over, but he was greeted with a 3-run homerun by Jarren Duran and that increased the lead to 7-3.
In the top of the ninth, closer Fernando Cruz retired the side to end the game.