If Puerto Rico is going to win the World Baseball Classic, it needs prime production from every member of its lineup, especially cleanup hitter Yadier Molina.
After taking care off business against Team USA and Japan, the only thing standing between Puerto Rico and the World Baseball crown is the undefeated Dominican Republic.
The two teams met not too long ago on Saturday, March 16. The Puerto Rican bats were cold as ice and could not produce any runs on simply three hits. The Dominicans, on the other hand, had two runs on six hits.
With this game fresh in mind, it’s not impossible to foresee a scenario where the Puerto Ricans are able to squeeze past the Dominican Republic.
Absent from Saturday’s game was Molina. He’s the team’s third best hitter with .333/.375/.481 behind Angel Pagan and Mike Aviles.
Molina came back for the semifinal game against Japan but failed to impress in Puerto Rico’s 3-1 victory. He went 0-for-4 and was the only player on the team besides Andy Gonzalez to not come up with a hit.
When Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic clash on Tuesday, March 19, the Puerto Ricans can’t have someone in the cleanup spot that doesn’t hit the ball.
Molina needs to have the game of his life.
In three out of their last four games, the Dominican Republic has come from behind to win.
Against the United States, the Dominicans broke up a tie game in the top of the ninth inning to win 3-1.
In the semifinals against the Netherlands, the Dominican Republic was down by one run but turned the tables after a monster performance in the fifth inning that saw the team score four runs.
But the most impressive turnaround came against Italy, where the Dominican Republic came back from four runs down to win 5-4.
On the flip side, these results show that it is possible to get ahead of the Dominicans in the early innings. The problem is that it’s hard to stop them from rallying.
Puerto Rico has especially had problems with Robinson Cano and Edwin Encarnacion during this tournament. In the two meetings between these two countries, the sluggers have gone 7-for 15.
That’s why Molina is going to be so crucial to Puerto Rico’s title hopes.
If he picks up his performance from the semifinal, then we might have a ball game on our hands. If not, then it looks like the Dominican Republic will keep dancing.