By Circles Robinson
HAVANA TIMES, May 18 — Yunieski Maya was overpowering on Sunday, leading Pinar del Rio to a 3-0 win over Habana in the opening game of the Western Division championship of the Cuban Baseball League. The Eastern Division series gets underway on Monday between Ciego de Avila and Villa Clara.
Pinar scored two runs in the first inning on a triple by shortstop David Castillo to center followed by a homer from second baseman Rafael Valdes to left. Pinar now has ten home runs in six post season games. Valdes drove in the other Pinar run in the sixth on a double, knocking in Castillo who also slammed a two-baser.
Maya, who finished second in the league in ERA during the regular season (2.22 with a 13-4 record), held the Habana batters to three hits over six innings, striking out six and walking one. Yosvanny Torres completed the shut out with three solid innings of relief to get a save, allowing only one hit and one walk while striking out three.
For Habana, the team with the best pitching staff in Cuban baseball, starter Yulieski Gonzalez got past the rocky start and ended up going six innings allowing seven hits and three runs. He struck out four and walked two. Jose Angel Garcia came on to pitch impeccable relief to keep the game in reach, allowing one hit, striking out three and no walks in the final three innings.
Pinar had eight hits to Habana’s four, with five of the eight coming from the two-three batters Castillo and Valdez.
Ciego de Avila hosts Villa Clara at 5:00 p.m. on Monday with either Valeri Garica or Maikel Folch the probable choice of Ciego manager Roger Machado against Alain Sanchez, expected to get the nod for Villa Clara. At 8:00 p.m. Pinar del Rio veteran star Pedro Luis Lazo squares off against Habana’s league leading ERA pitcher, Yadier Pedroso (1.91) in game two of their best-of-seven series.
For more insight into the Cuban Baseball Playoffs read the posts on Peter C. Bjarkman’s HT Playoffs Diary at: http://havanatimes.org/?p=8213