HAVANA TIMES, March 30.- The Cuban Baseball League was back in action over the weekend with a third of the season remaining. Play had been suspended since February 9 to give the national team time to prepare for the World Baseball Classic which ended on March 23.
The first series after the long break included two sweeps in the Western Division. La Habana won its three games against cellar dweller Cienfuegos and moved 9.5 games ahead of Pinar del Rio. Yadier Pedroso picked up his seventh win against two losses on Sunday for La Habana.
In the battle between two top teams in recent years but strugglers this season, Sancti Spiritus moved within three games of fourth place Metropolitanos by sweeping Industriales, the favorite team of the capital, which fell to seventh place five games behind the last playoff slot.
On Sunday, Industriales had a 3-2 lead going into the fourth when Sancti Spiritus erupted with four runs to go ahead 6-3. In the seventh the visitors scored 7 more and the game was called after seven on the mercy rule with the score 13-3.
In other Western Division games second place Pinar del Rio and star pitcher Yunieski Maya were embarrassed 10-1 by Matanzas on Saturday but Pinar won their series with victories on Friday and a 12-4 bash on Sunday behind Vladimir Baños with a homer by catcher Yosvanny Peraza.
Third place Isla de la Juventud gained a game on fourth place Metropolitanos winning their series two games to one winning the tie-breaker 9-7 on Sunday.
Of top four teams in the Eastern Division only leader Villa Clara lost its weekend series two games to one to second place Ciego de Avila which won the tie-breaker 15-4 in seven innings on the mercy rule with Valeri Garcia winning his eighth against only one loss. Ciego is now one game behind Villa Clara.
Santiago de Cuba, the defending league champs that got off to very slow start in the first half of the season continued to improve and are solidly in third place after winning their series over Guantanamo, which escaped a sweep with a 3-1 win on Sunday. Santiago de Cuba was 13-13 in early January and has a 24-9 record since.
Holguin maintained its six-game lead over fifth place Camaguey as both teams won their series two games to one over Granma and Las Tunas respectively. Camaguey won its series tie-breaker 13-4 on Sunday with a home run by Leslie Anderson. Holguin beat Granma 10-6 with Aroldis Chapman (7-1) picking up the win. Yoennis Cespedes and Alfredo Despaigne both homered for Granma.
Team Cuba went undefeated in the first round of the World Baseball Classic in Mexico City but was eliminated in round two after losing twice to the eventual WBC champion Japan.
|Teams (Western Division)||W||L||Pct||GB|
|Pinar del Rio||31||29||.517||9.5|
|Isla de la Juventud||29||31||.483||11.5|
|Teams (Eastern Division)||W||L||Pct||GB|
|Ciego de Avila||41||19||.683||1.0|
|Santiago de Cuba||37||22||.627||4.5|