MIAMI – Puerto Rico advanced to the quarterfinals of the World Baseball Classic with a 5-2 victory over the Dominican Republic. But the joy quickly turned to despair when star closer Edwin Diaz crumpled to the floor during the post-game celebration on the mound.
Diaz’s teammates formed a circle around him, hanging their heads or crying. Instead of carrying their bags to the clubhouse at Lone Depot Park, the Dominican players lingered in the dugout, stunned by the scene on the field. When 28-year-old Diaz finally stood up, he was first lifted and then wheeled off the field, unable to put any weight on his right leg.
Diaz, who signed a record five-year, $102 million deal this off-season, has to stay with the Mets because of a right knee injury, the team said. He will undergo imaging on Thursday and they will “update as appropriate,” Metz added.
The injury came after a highly anticipated do-or-die matchup between two baseball powerhouses that lived up to expectations. The teams played in front of a roaring sellout crowd of 36,025, and Puerto Rico, runners-up in the two previous editions of the tournament in 2013 and 2017, defeated a team of superstars, the Dominican Republic. Favorites
But Diaz’s collapse dampened those emotions and renewed concerns about injuries surrounding the tournament, which takes place every four years and lasts two weeks during Major League Baseball’s spring training. It could have dealt a major blow to the Mets, a team entering the year with World Series aspirations.
“Even when we were excited about the game, it was one of our brothers,” Boston Red Sox player Enrique Hernandez said.
Many top players, many of them pitchers, refused to participate in the WBC or were denied permission to play by their MLB teams. Some cite injury concerns — current or Possible – their cause. Teams are often concerned that players need to progress earlier than usual before the 162-game regular season, which is more important than spring training exhibition contests.
However, Diaz did not appear to injure himself while pitching Wednesday. He threw his trademark 100-mile-per-hour fastballs and vicious sliders to strike out the side in the ninth inning, never seeming to be in pain before the celebration began.
After the final out, Diaz hugged his brother Alexis, a pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds. They were joined by the rest of the team, and with their arms around each other, they bounced up and down in a more subdued celebration. But then Diaz collapsed to the ground, and teammates immediately signaled for the training staff to come out.
On the sideline, Puerto Rico captain Francisco Lindor, a fellow Mate, crouched and looked down at the ground. Dominican infielder and former Met Robinson Cano, with his hands on his head. Tears streamed down Diaz’s brother’s face.
Puerto Rico manager Yadier Molina said he didn’t see what happened to Díaz as he hugged his coaches in the dugout after the final. When he looked up, he was surprised to find Diyas on the ground.
“When you see someone who works as hard as Edwin and see him on the floor like that, it’s sad,” he said.
Molina later said of the postgame celebrations, “If anything’s going to happen, it’s going to happen. There have been celebrations since I was born. It is God’s will. I hope Edwin is well and his family is well and we are praying for him.
Behind eight pitchers, Puerto Rico neutralized a star-studded Dominican Republic offense and played pure defense. At the plate, Puerto Rico designated hitter Christian Vazquez homered, while Hernandez and Lindor each added two hits. With the win, Pool D runner-up Puerto Rico advanced to the quarterfinals and will face Pool C winner Mexico in Miami on Saturday.
In the tunnel outside the Puerto Rico clubhouse after the game, Diaz’s brother and parents were led away in tears.
“Besides being so close to the game right now and being a big part of this team, Sugar is one of the glue guys in that clubhouse,” Hernandez said, referring to Diaz by his nickname. Diaz, who saved 32 games each of the last two seasons for the Mets, helped organize dinners and meetings for the Puerto Rican team, he noted.
“He has a really big bank account, but his heart is big,” Hernandez said, later saying of the injury, “that it’s him is a big blow in more ways than one.”