The Estrellas Orientales earned a wild 5-4 walk-off win in 11 innings over the Gigantes del Cibao in Game 1 of the Dominican Winter League finals on Monday night.
The Estrellas, who are managed by former big leaguer Fernando Tatis Sr., took a 3-1 lead into the ninth inning, only to watch it slip away on a go-ahead three-run homer by the Gigantes. The Estrellas, however, answered in the bottom half, with Gustavo Nuñez lining a tying single to send the game to extras.
Nuñez would also prove to be the hero in the 11th inning. The 33-year-old second baseman reached on a one-out single before promptly advancing to second on a wild pitch. Nuñez then stole third base, and with the throw from the catcher sailing into left field as he slid into the bag, he popped to his feet and raced home to score the winning run.
Nuñez’s late-game heroics lifted the Estrellas to a series-opening win in the best-of-seven showdown, which continues at 6 p.m. ET on Tuesday on MLB.TV.
Here’s a closer look at the matchup, as well as what’s in store for the rest of the series:
The Gigantes and the Estrellas
The Gigantes went 23-17 in the regular season to finish in first place among the six LIDOM teams. The Estrellas went 22-18 to finish second.
The two teams reached the finals by advancing out of the first round-robin playoff stage, which was made up of the top four teams in the standings, also including Tigres del Licey and Aguilas Cibaeñas.
The Gigantes won their only LIDOM championship in the 2014-15 season. They reached the finals last winter, but lost to Aguilas. The Estrellas are three-time LIDOM champions, having most recently won in 2018-19.
Who are some of the top players?
Here are some of the players who have led the Gigantes and Estrellas this season:
The Gigantes have lefty slugger Juan Francisco, who spent six seasons in the Major Leagues from 2009-14. Francisco tied for the league lead with four home runs this season, and he led LIDOM with 27 RBIs. He also homered twice in the round-robin part of the playoffs. The Gigantes also have this year’s league leader in hits, Hanser Alberto, who collected 53 while batting .321 in the regular season and had a team-high 18 hits in round-robin play. Alberto and Francisco combined for four of the club’s seven hits in Game 1.
The Estrellas have longtime MLB closer Fernando Rodney in their bullpen after picking him up from Leones del Escogido in the pre-playoff draft. Now 44 years old, Rodney pitched 17 games with a 3.38 ERA and 11 strikeouts in the regular season and made five appearances for the Estrellas in the first round of the playoffs. Former Cubs outfielder Junior Lake anchors the Estrellas’ lineup — he batted .262 with three home runs and 11 RBIs during the regular season, and he batted .351 with one homer and 11 RBIs in round-robin play.
How to watch the games
Every game in the series will be streamed live on MLB.TV. Broadcasts are in Spanish.
The teams alternate home field for each game of the series, with the Estrellas hosting Games 1, 3, 5 and 7 at Estadio Tetelo Vargas and the Gigantes hosting Games 2, 4 and 6 at Estadio Julián Javier.
Here’s a look at the full schedule for the series:
Game 1: Estrellas 5, Gigantes 4 (F/11)
Game 2: Estrellas at Gigantes — Tuesday at 6 p.m. ET
Game 3: Gigantes at Estrellas — Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. ET
Game 4: Estrellas at Gigantes — Friday at 4 p.m. ET
Game 5 (Gigantes at Estrellas) — Saturday at 6:30 p.m. ET
Game 6 (Estrellas at Gigantes) — Sunday at 4 p.m. ET
Game 7 (Gigantes at Estrellas) — Jan. 24 at 4 p.m. ET