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All-star closer Edwin Díaz suffers leg injury celebrating Puerto Rico’s WBC win

Puerto Rico 5, Dominican Republic 2

Two-time all-star closer Edwin Díaz is helped off the field after suffering a potentially serious leg injury while celebrating Puerto Rico's 5-2 victory over the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic on Wednesday night in Miami. (Eric Espada/Getty Images)
5 min

MIAMI — Before anyone had time to wonder what it meant that Puerto Rico had eliminated the mighty Dominican Republic from the World Baseball Classic, that the favored Dominicans would be going home before the quarterfinals, that Puerto Rico had just won one of the wildest games in the history of the tournament, Edwin Díaz crumpled.

The circle of Puerto Rican stars who congregated to celebrate stopped bouncing. Francisco Lindor and Díaz’s brother, Alexis, sank to their knees. A few teammates starting waving frantically for trainers who were too busy celebrating themselves to notice right away. And in the center of the scrum, out of sight of television cameras and fans, sat the best closer in baseball, aware that something had gone very wrong in his right leg.

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Exactly what happened to Díaz is unclear. He did not address reporters after the game — which was, history may now forget, an action-packed 5-2 win that pushed Puerto Rico into the WBC quarterfinals.

His manager, Yadier Molina, told reporters he thought the problem was Díaz’s right knee, but that he didn’t have any updates yet.

“I was hugging our coaches in the dugout,” Molina said. “Then when we looked up, Edwin was on the ground. I didn’t know. I didn’t know how to act, I didn’t know how to — what to say. I mean, I didn’t know.”

Not long after Molina spoke, the New York Mets — who made Díaz the highest paid reliever in history this offseason when they signed him to a five-year deal worth $102 million — issued a statement saying Díaz had injured himself in the celebration and that he would undergo more imaging Thursday. But the feeling around the visitors’ clubhouse at loanDepot Park was not merely pessimistic. It was downright somber.

“Quiet,” Puerto Rico outfielder Kiké Hernandez, eyes red, said when asked later how he would describe the team’s clubhouse postgame. Anyone who has been around the Puerto Rican players — their hair dyed blonde in solidarity, leaping out of the dugout with every big play — knows how unlikely that description is for this group.

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“As excited as we were about the game and all that, it's one of our brothers and some of us grew up together and all that,” Hernandez said. “It’s real easy to set aside the game and worry about us as humans. So it definitely doesn't feel in there like we just beat the Dominican Republic to advance.”

Instead, the postgame scene outside Puerto Rico’s clubhouse was something bordering on dystopian. Mets senior communications director Zach Weber, translator Alan Suriel and director of major league operations Liz Benn jogged into the clubhouse moments after the team left the field, faces taut with concern. Paramedics arrived shortly after and were pointed to the proper clubhouse. Díaz’s brother, Alexis, walked the hall in tears. His parents were escorted into the clubhouse, then out again. They were also in tears.

“Obviously aside from being the best closer in the game right now, and being a huge part of this team … He’s just a guy that, I’m just going to put it out there, like he has a really big bank account, but his heart is way bigger than his bank account is,” Hernandez said.

He added: “He’s one of the really special human beings we got in that clubhouse.”

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Díaz, 28, is the most dominant closer in baseball. He faced 235 batters in 2022 and struck out 118 of them. He was not only going to be a crucial component of Puerto Rico’s push for its first WBC title this weekend, but a difference-making part of the Mets’ push for a World Series championship. And suddenly, seconds after he froze Teoscar Hernández with a front-door slider to end one of the more significant games of his baseball life, his immediate baseball future seemed uncertain.

“That’s God’s will. If anything is going to happen, it will happen. Celebrations [have] existed ever since I was born,” Molina told reporters postgame, via an MLB translation. “It’s God’s will.”

This is the fifth iteration of the WBC, and for years, Major League Baseball has attempted to market the event as a must-see for baseball fans around the world. At times in past years, the whole thing felt forced.

But what makes Díaz’s injury so jarring was the emotion of what came before, of Dominican fans waving flags and Puerto Rican fans serenading their stars, of players soaring around the bases and skipping off the field when innings ended.

Big league benches do not normally clear for third-inning homers, not even in October, but Puerto Rico’s did. Manny Machado doesn’t often look sad, but that is exactly how he looked after grounding into a rally-killing double play with the bases loaded in the fifth. That was the Dominican Republic’s best chance at a comeback, particularly with Díaz looming in the ninth.

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And up until the moment Puerto Rico started to celebrate, the story of the evening was going to be its stunning victory in front of a sellout crowd of 36,025 at loanDepot Park — perhaps the greatest testament to the tournament’s importance, given that the Marlins can go entire regular season homestands without drawing as many. But instead of motoring into the quarterfinals this weekend, Puerto Rico has been grounded by a cruel twist of baseball fate — and of a very important right knee — that could keep the best closer in the sport off the mound for quite some time.