By Circles Robinson
HAVANA TIMES, May 12 — The Western Division of the Cuban Baseball League is down to two teams, La Habana and Pinar del Rio, as both disposed of their rivals on Monday. Isla de la Juventud and Sancti Spiritus were thus eliminated four games to one in the quarterfinals.
Eastern Division play continues on Tuesday with Ciego de Avila sporting a three to zero lead over Holguin and Santiago de Cuba and Villa Clara now tied at two wins each in the best-of-seven series.
Game four between Ciego and Holguin will be a rematch of the game one pitching duel between southpaws Maikel Folch of Ciego and Aroldis Chapman of Holguin, won by Folch 2-1, with one of Ciego’s runs coming on a costly fielding error. Ciego de Avila was the league’s top winner with a 64-26 record during the regular season.
In the other game on Tuesday, a resurrected Santiago de Cuba plays Villa Clara, which has seen its surprising 2-0 lead playing in Santiago erased at home. Game five is also in Santa Clara, capital of Villa Clara province, and the locals have announced Freddy Asiel Alvarez as their starter against either Danny Betancourt or Reinier Roibal for Santiago.
Pinar del Rio-Sancti Spiritus game five was Pinar from the first inning. Up 5-0 after three, Sancti Spiritus managed to edge to 5-3 but Pinar scored five more in the final three innings to win 10-5.
Catcher Yosavani Peraza had a double and homer for Pinar driving in three runs, while leadoff hitter Jorge Padron homered knocking in two more. Yulieski Gourriel, who had a great year batting .399, belted a solo homer for Sancti Spiritus before saying good bye for the season.
While he wasn’t at his best, Pedro Luis Lazo went the route for Pinar allowing 10 hits and five earned runs. Angel Peña gave up four runs in 2.2 to take the loss. Yoen Socarras was battered in relief for five runs in 5.1 innings.
Habana-Isla de la Juventud ended their series with a 19-5 rout. Isla had a 4-2 lead going into the fifth inning but an avalanche by Habana hitters buried the pitching of Carlos Yanes, Oscar Jacomino and Luis M. Suarez for nine runs to end Isla’s hopes against the league leading Habana pitching. If any doubts remained Habana scored eight more in the sixth to put the score at 19-4.
Batting third, second baseman Ernesto Molinet had an incredible day knocking in seven runs with two homers, including a grand slam, and a double in four at-bats. Dayan Garcia (3B) helped out with three more RBIs on two hits including a homer.
Yadier Pedroso pitched the full seven innings with the game called on the 10-run mercy rule. He struck out nine and walked four, allowing 11 hits and Isla’s five runs. Oscar Jacomino took the loss.
Ciego de Avila won its third straight game over Holguin, this time as the visitor in an 11-9 slugfest. Holguin moved out to a 7-3 lead after six innings but their relief pitching caved in allowing eight runs in the final three innings.
Ciego had three homers in the game, one by Yordanis Perez (LF) who went four-for-five with three RBIs. Yoelvis Fiss (CF) had a homer, two runs scored and four RBIs, while Issac Martinez (DH) had three hits including a home run and two RBIs. Holguin was led by Lerys Aguilera (DH) who homered and drove in three, while Roynel Varona drove in two and Yeison Pacheco (1B) had three doubles and scored a run.
Alfredo Unzue picked up the win with 1.1 innings of scoreless relief and Vladimir Garcia got the save allowing one run in 2.0 innings. Reliever Luis Miguel Rodriguez was battered for seven runs in 2.2 innings to take the loss for Holguin.
Santiago de Cuba appeared back to the form that gave it the league championship last season. Veteran right-hander Norge Luis Vera shutout Villa Clara 6-0 allowing only two runs on two hits with nine strikeouts and no walks in 8.0 innings. Alberto Bicet pitched the scoreless ninth.
Villa Clara used five pitchers with starter Yuliet Lopez taking the loss after allowing Santiago’s first four runs in 2.1 innings. Leading Santiago were Pedro Poll (1B) with a home run, double and two RBIs and Rolando Meriño (C) who had three hits and another two RBIs.
Later in the week Cuban baseball expert Peter C. Bjarkman will be giving Havana Times readers his analysis on the quarterfinals as well as some things to expect in the semifinals. To read Bjarkman’s HT Cuban Baseball Playoffs diary click on: http://havanatimes.org/?p=8213