Isla, Holguin near Cuba Playoffs

By Circles Robinson

 Havana’s Latinoamericano Baseball Stadium, Photo: designwallah
Havana’s Latinoamericano Baseball Stadium, Photo: designwallah

HAVANA TIMES, April 28 – Cuba’s baseball season concludes this week with six games left on the schedule per team and time running out for fifth place Industriales and Matanzas in the West and Guantanamo in the East. In the fight for the last playoff ticket, Isla de la Juventud has a magic number of four in the West while Holguin’s is three in the East.

Six teams have already clinched their playoff presence: La Habana, Pinar del Rio and Sancti Spiritus in the Western Division and Ciego de Avila, Santiago de Cuba and Villa Clara in the Eastern Division.

On Sunday Holguin managed a big 4-2 win at home over Pinar del Rio, while Isla de la Juventud pounded out a 13-6 win over lowly Granma.

In the Tuesday-Thursday match-ups, Isla de la Juventud hosts Industriales, which can only stay alive by winning two or sweeping the series. To conclude play Isla will host division leaders La Habana and Industriales will play on the road against second place Pinar del Rio. The other team with a shot is Matanzas which is tied for fifth with Industriales. They play cellar dweller Cienfuegos and then face the revived Sancti Spiritus.

In the Eastern Division Holguin begins its week on the road against Villa Clara and finishes the season also as the visitors against division leading Ciego de Avila. Guantanamo, which is still breathing, rests its faint hopes on sweeping Las Tunas as the visitors and then facing Camaguey. While Holguin faces much tougher opponents, their four game lead looks pretty formidable with six to play.

Yorelvis Charles and Michel Enriquez Top Batters

The batting race has tightened with a week to go. Yorelvis Charles (Ciego de Avila) still tops the charts with a .404 average, followed by the red hot Michel Enriquez (Isla de la Juventud) at .401. Yulieski Gourriel (Sancti Spiritus) moved up to third at .393 with 21 homers, Leslie Anderson (Camaguey) is fourth with a .385 average tied with Giorvis Duvergel (Guantanamo).

Alfredo Despaigne (Granma) leads the league with 31 homers and 89 RBIs. Yulieski Gourriel now has 85 RBIs. Despaigne is now tied with the all-time Cuban baseball league home run record set last season by Santiago de Cuba slugger Albert Bell.

Pedroso and Maya Battle for Best ERA

The top pitcher of the 2007-2008 season is a two-horse race between Yadier Pedroso (La Habana and Yunieski Maya (Pinar del Rio). Pedroso (9-3) leads the league with a 2.00 ERA followed by Maya (13-4) at 2.07. Far back in third place is Maikel Folch (Ciego de Avila) 11-4 and a 2.81 ERA.

Standings on April 27 with six games to go:

Teams (Western Division) W L Pct GB
La Habana* 55 29 .655
Pinar del Rio* 49 35 .583 6.0
Sancti Spiritus* 43 41 .512 12.0
Isla de la Juventud 39 45 .464 16.0
Industriales 36 48 .429 19.0
Matanzas 36 48 .429 19.0
Metropolitanos 32 52 .381 23.0
Cienfuegos 31 53 .369 24.0
Teams (Eastern Division) W L Pct GB
Ciego de Avila* 59 25 .702
Santiago de Cuba* 54 30 .643 5.0
Villa Clara* 50 34 .595 9.0
Holguin 44 40 .524 15.0
Guantanamo 40 44 .476 19.0
Camaguey 37 47 .440 22.0
Las Tunas 34 50 .405 25.0
Granma 33 51 .393 26.0

*Clinched playoff berth