HAVANA TIMES — Superb pitching from right-handers Yaisel Sierra and Vladimir Gutierrez allowed Cuba to win a 1-0 pitching duel on Sunday and complete a five game sweep of an error-plagued USA university selection, reported Aliet Arzola for Granma newspaper.
The two teams had played a tiring double-header on Saturday afternoon-evening after which the USA manager Dave Van Horn told Granma that his boys defense was not up to the challenge, while the Cubans played near flawless during the series.
And it’s true that the errors buried any chance for the USA, as they ran up 12 in the five games. This combined with their lackluster batting and run producing performance.
In the final game of the series the two lanky Cuban right-handers, Sierra and Gutierrez, closed down their rivals, striking out nine with their fast balls (well over 90 mph) control and sliders that moved away from the batters upon reaching the plate.
Gutierrez, from Holguin, showed that he can pitch effectively as a starter or reliever, the role he played in his previous games. With his pitching speed he could specialize in being a closer but he also has the ability as a starter to maintain his fast ball without losing command and allowing the games to advance.
Finding the ideal role for the talented righty is no doubt a priority of the coaches, aware that having him continuously alternating between starting and closing will impede his full development.
In game five he went 3.1 innings of one-hit scoreless relief to finish off the sweep, the perfect revenge for Team Cuba’s five straight losses last year in different US cities. Sierra, Cuba’s starter, pitched 5.2 innings allowing only four hits while striking out seven.
However, it wasn’t an easy win as US starter Kyle Funhouser was also impressive, recording eight strikeouts in 5.2 innings and allowing only two hits, both from David Castillo of Pinar del Rio. It was the RBI single from Yadiel Hernandez off reliever A.J. Minter in the sixth that drove in Castillo for games’ only run.
Outside that inning there were few emotions on the Cuban side as US relievers A.J. Minter and Dillon Tate retired the locals with little problem.
The rotating Cuba-USA series resumed in 2012 and next year will be played in the United States.