• Ray Otero-Alonso

2021 Cuban Finals: Granma Alazanes take 2-0 lead with 6-5 win over Matanzas Cocodrilos in Game 2


Raico Santos doesn’t stop bringing home teammates, Granma’s relievers have allowed two runs in five innings and the Granma Alazanes are just two games away from their third Cuban National Series title.

The Alazanes took a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven Cuban Final Series on Monday afternoon, after beating the Cocodrilos 6-5 in Game 2. Starter Leandro Martínez pitched a no-hitter for 4 1/3 innings, Granma bullpen held on for three innings and Santos’ 3 RBIs in the game paced the offense.



Santos offensive rampage included a decisive eighth inning solo-shot off closer Joel Suárez. It was Santos’ fourth RBI in two games.


BOX SCORE


Game 3 of the series is Wednesday at 1 p.m (ET) with César García scheduled to start for Granma. Matanzas will go with Renner Rivero.


Granma, after winning Game 1 (3-2) behind ace Lázaro Blanco, didn’t waste any time in Game 2 adding three runs in the first two frames of the game.


Veteran right-hander Noelvis Entenza started for Matanzas, and got in trouble early walking two and allowing Guillermo Avilés’ RBI-single to center for Granma's 1-0 lead. In the second inning Entenza issued a walk to the first batter he faced, and then Erisbel Arruebarruena’s error at short left two runners on. Alexquemer Sánchez moved the runners over with a sacrifice bunt, only to see both score on Roel Santos’ double to left field.


Meanwhile everything was working for Granma’ starter Leandro Martínez. With 49 pitches the veteran left-hander had Matanzas hitless until the fifth. In that inning, a good defensive play by right fielder Alex Sánchez gave Martínez the first out, but then a walk - Yadir Drake - and Yariel Duque’ single to center - Matanzas’ first hit of the game -, brought outfielder Ariel Sánchez to the plate. Then on a 2-2 count Sánchez crushed Martínez’s 62-pitch of the game for a three-run shot to left field to tie the score at 3-3. New game!


Leandro Martínez was able to end the inning retiring Eduardo Blanco in a grounder to shortstop Yulián Milán, but after 76 pitches was removed from the game to start the sixth inning, despite giving up just two hits.


The pitching change didn’t go well for Granma. Matanzas would take its first lead of the game in the sixth against relievers Juan Danilo Pérez and Erluis Blanco. Pérez allowed back-to-back singles and issued a walk to Arruebarrena to load the bases, and then Blanco came to his rescue allowing Drake’s two-run single to left for Matanzas 5-3 lead. Matanzas could have scored more runs in the inning, but Arruebarrena’s base running trying to get to third base ended with Matanzas’ second out of the inning after the Matanzas' infielder slid past third base.


The lead didn’t last long.


With already 89 pitches the sixth frame saw Entenza surrender a single, a walk and a sacrifice bunt to put the tying run on second. Matanzas’s manager Armando Ferrer had already seen too much and pulled Entenza out of the game bringing young lefty reliever Naykel Cruz. And Cruz responded on the next two batters, getting Roel Santos in fly out to center before fanning Osvaldo Abreu looking for the second out of the inning. But it was definitely Raico Santos’ game. In an empty count Raico lined a two-run single up the middle to tie the game at 5-5 ending Cruz relief.



Two innings later Raico would sentence the game. Facing Matanzas’s third reliever of the game - right-hander Joel Suárez - and on a 1-2 count, Santos crushed an 85-mph high fastball giving Granma a final 6-5 lead.



Alazanes’ manager Carlos Martí handed the ball to closer Carlos Santana in the ninth and Santana gave Matanzas some hope. The right-hander allowed back-to-back singles to put runners in the corners with no out to start the inning. But Santana didn’t panic and first retired pinch-hitter Juan M. Vázquez in a hard grounder to first base that was played well by Avilés, who started and finished an important 3636 double play. Santana then stranded the runner on third striking out Eduardo Blanco to preserve the lead for his first save of the series.


Highlights