Translation: Marlys Rodríguez Francisco
Masters in their swamp, Matanzas Crocodiles bit first in the final play-off of the 53rd Cuban Baseball Series, after nine enjoyable innings that led to a final 5×3 score, with alternate assaults, and an embellished ending with the possibility of a tie
Alfonso Urquiola wanted to play by his book and did not take chances in his lineup; however, Victor Mesa placed Yariel Duque as 6th batter and defender of the first base.
It did not come as a surprise the starters chosen for the initial game. Pinar del Rio put Yosvani Torres on the box, and Matanzas gave Yoani Yera the ball, both, aces of their respective teams.
As early as in the 6th throw, Ariel Sánchez sunk the ball in the crowded leftfield stands. Two hard lines by Yadiel Hernández and Eriel Sánchez followed. As a replica of five nights ago, in the Latinoamericano Park, the right-handed pitcher from El Tanque started with the wrong foot.
But it did not stop there. New threats of storm came when José Miguel Fernández and Duque singled out to their hands. Nevertheless, Crocodiles’ direction ordered Lázaro Herrera to bunt, giving Torres the kind of break he needed.
Despite this, it did not rain for the Wolves’ hurler, it poured. While Torres accepted the bunt, he could have forced the out on third base, but instead he shot at first, leaving runners on second and third, and the scenario ready for a rolling and a hit by Guillermo Heredia brought over two more for locals.
It could have been worse had Donald Duarte not catch a potential extra-base line. The inning ended there, with “the damage almost done”, as a frenzied fan next to me expressed.
And the game favored that impression. Yera seemed to throw unreadable pitches, mixing them conveniently with curveballs dived in to the ground, highly fashioned in Cuban baseball. It was not until the third chapter that the first solid contact from the Green squad, signed by Osniel Madera, appeared. It was obvious at the time that Yera was again the dominant pitcher who could not success vs. Villa Clara at semis.
Matanzas scored again in the 4th, with robust Duque on whip mode. Would it be the end? No way Jose. Pinar is a team that has learned a long time ago to play this kind of games, and it is filled with experienced players, who, as in the case, punished the lefty. William Saavedra, Lorenzo Quintana and Yosvani Peraza got Yera out of box, but his replacement, Alexander Bustamante, could not avoid visitors from nearing the score 4×3 thanks to a hard double by David Castillo.
From that moment on, Torres regained strength, while on the opposite side several hurlers climbed. The confrontation grew tense, and Matanzas looked weakened with the premature inclusions of Yasiel Santoya and Victor Victor, brought in for defensive roles when half a game was still to be played.
However, Pinar fell short, dominated by Matanzas’ excellent handling of its bullpen. And the coup de grace came in the 8th, with another single by Heredia. The late threat of the 9th, with two outs, and two runners on base, Madera at bat, just bring about more suspense.
Positive: The Red’s bull pen. Negative: The early substitutions of Duque and Ariel Sánchez. Alarming: The tobaccomen defense. Unbelievable: The decision of not celebrating the press conference.