MIAMI — The game had been over for an hour late Friday evening when pitcher Alexis Diaz walked out of the Puerto Rico clubhouse, his head down after their 5-4 defeat to Mexico, trying to keep his composure.
He was trying to fathom how a beautiful dream just 48 hours ago could turn into a horrifying nightmare.
It was just Wednesday night, on this same field at loanDepot Park, when Puerto Rico defeated the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic, one of the greatest triumphs in its proud baseball history.
Edwin Diaz, Alexis’ big brother, had just struck out the side in the ninth, and was jumping up and down in jubilation. Alexis and his teammates rushed over. They jumped into his arms, and began celebrated one of the most beautiful nights of their lives.
It was the first time the two brothers had ever played together on the same professional baseball field, and now they were experiencing the same euphoria together.
Seconds later, Edwin Diaz collapsed to the ground, screaming in pain, his right knee buckling. Alexis stood off to the side, tears streaming down his face, watching his brother leave the field in a wheelchair.
Now, with his brother undergoing season-ending knee surgery, Diaz entered the game in the seventh inning Friday, asked to protect a 4-2 lead.
Austin Barnes greeted him with a double. Randy Arozarena walked. Alex Verdugo walked.
Puerto Rico manager Yadier Molina rushed to the mound to take Diaz out of the game, but the damage was already done. He sat on the bench and watched Isaac Peredes hit a two-out, two-run single off Jorge Lopez to tie the game, and then Luis Urias hit a go-ahead run-scoring single.
Just like that, it was over.
Mexico was advancing to the WBC semifinals for the first time in the country’s greatest baseball victory, Puerto Rico’s WBC title hopes were over, and Diaz was making plans to catch a flight back to Arizona to the Cincinnati Reds’ spring training camp.
Baseball, man, can it be cruel.
“It’s been really painful, honestly, the past couple of days,’’ Diaz said. “I wanted to be out there with my brother, especially with what happened to him.’’
Diaz paused, collected himself, and said: “But I’m a warrior. I have a heart of a warrior. I’m going to do my best to have a great season and keep it going.’’
Diaz’s teammates consoled him. He talked to his brother. Everyone offered the…
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