P.R. grabs wild one from Mexico

P.R. grabs wild one from Mexico

VALENCIA, Venezuela -- The noises coming out of Estadio Jose Bernardo Perez on Saturday afternoon were impressive.

The Mexican cheers, the Puerto Rican chants, combined with the steady smack of baseballs hitting bats every inning were all the rage.

But in the end, it was the near-silent sigh of relief coming out of the visitors' dugout that proved to be most important sound of the night.

Puerto Rico edged Mexico, 10-9, to give the club its first win in the 2006 Caribbean Series and provide them with hope the international series can be salvaged.

Puerto Rico, like Mexico, entered the matinee with a 0-2 record in the series. Unlike Mexico, Puerto Rico entered Saturday's game with a 1-14 record in it last 15 Caribbean Series games.

"We really needed this one," Arizona Diamondbacks infielder Alex Cintron said. "We've been struggling in the Caribbean Series and not having a lot of fun. We feel pretty relaxed, and I'm hoping we can win the next three games.

"I hope the people of Puerto Rico can be happy and believe in us again."

Confidence in its club is likely one of the many emotions Puerto Rican fans were feeling for their beloved baseball team. Add nervous, cautious and a little anxious to that list during this see-saw battle that culminated with Jesus Feliciano scoring the deciding run for Puerto Rico in the ninth inning when he came home on a throwing error by Mexico second baseman Edgar Gonzalez.

"It's a fantastic feeling," Puerto Rico manager Leno Rivera said after the win. "My kids didn't quit and they played hard the entire time. I think this will help us be ready for [Sunday] and the rest of the series."

After falling behind, 1-0, in the first inning, Puerto Rico roared back with four runs in the second inning.

In the third inning, Puerto Rico extended the lead to 5-1 when Jose Valentin scored on a single by Edwards Guzman.

The margin was big, but Puerto Rico's comfortable lead vanished quickly.

Very quickly.

In the bottom half of the third, Mexico rallied for five runs to pull ahead, 6-5, with the final run of the frame coming on an error by Puerto Rico's Alex Cora.

The action was just beginning.

The very next inning, Puerto Rico answered with a run on an RBI single by Pedro Valdes that scored Ruben Gotay to tie the game at 6.

The teams exchanged runs in the fifth, which was followed by a scoreless sixth inning -- the first inning without a run of the game. In the seventh, Victor Rodriguez hit a two-run home run for Puerto Rico for yet another lead. That is, until Mexico responded with a two-run homer of its own -- this time by Luis Cruz -- to tie the game at 9. Pirates prospect Ray Sadler hit a triple to set up Cruz's homer.

After the game, the players were visibly excited. And also visibly relieved.

"I think we can breathe and relax a little now," Cintron said. "I know I will sleep better knowing we won."

Cruz finished 4-for-5 with five RBIs. Gonzalez also finished 4-for-5.

Puerto Rico starter Ariel Prieto was charged with seven runs on 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings before yielding to Julio Jimenez. Ivan Maldonado earned the win for Puerto Rico with three scoreless innings. He allowed one hit.

Jose Luis Garcia was tagged with the loss for Mexico after allowing one run on two hits in 1 1/3 innings.

Guzman and Luis Figueroa each had three hits to pace Puerto Rico's offense.

"We didn't pitch really well but our hitting was there tonight," Rivera said. "I knew if we could get to the bullpen we had a chance. We hit, but they also hit us. I'm so happy we won. We kept fighting."

Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.