8-team field set; Cuban postseason 2021 opens Tuesday
Finally, after a 75-games season, the 2021 Cuban postseason is set. Eight teams are in, for the first time since 2012, and the action begins with two series on Tuesday. Two other series will get underway Wednesday. This year there will be one-day rest between games for all series, for the first time in Cuban postseason history.
Here is a look at the first two of the best-of-three series matchups:
Las Tunas (5) at Santiago de Cuba (4) – Tuesday, 10 a.m. ET on Tele Rebelde
Game 1 starters
LTU: Yudier Rodríguez (12-5-3.43)
SCU: Carlos Font (12-3-4.14)
Santiago de Cuba advanced to a Cuban postseason for the first time since 2010 and will have to face an offensive team that won the title two years ago.
Las Tunas is arriving to this postseason with a potent offense that can score a lot of runs. The team led the league in homeruns (70) and were second in BA (.331). Veterans like Danel Castro, the Alarcón brothers (26 HRs combined), Rafael Viñales (19 HRs), and the speedy Yuniesky Larduet (23 steals) can be a problem for Santiago’s rotation. Pitching will depend on the return of their ace Carlos Juan Viera, but veterans Yudier Rodríguez and Yoalkis Cruz, along with youngster Alejandro Meneses may be able to lead a rotation with an ERA (4.98) just under the league average (5.16).
On the other hand, Santiago de Cuba is no longer the powerhouse of the 90’s and 2000’s and this postseason the team will not have one of their best hitters on Yoelkis Guibert (.362 BA in 43 games this year). The team’s rotation is also a question mark. Santiago’s ace, Carlos Font (12-3 this year), will be leading a rotation with minimum postseason experience. The big question is how veterans Alberto Bisset and Danny Betancourt will perform against a solid offensive lineup such as Las Tunas. Yunior Tur is one of the best closer in Cuban baseball, but I can assure you he will be tested. Santiago possesses an exciting young player on Santiago Torres, with a slash line of .363/.466/.613, and one of the candidates to the MVP award. However, Torres will need all help he can get from veterans Edilse Silva and Ariel Benavides, and established Adriel Labrada and Rudens Sánchez.
Prediction: Las Tunas over Santiago de Cuba
Industriales (7) at Granma (2) – Tuesday, 1 p.m. ET on Tele Rebelde
Game 1 starters
IND: Brian Chi (4-3-2.94)
GRM: Leandro Martínez (6-7-3.98)
Industriales barely advanced to the postseason to face a team that won 48 games this year and that has won two of the last four championships (2017-2018).
For the record, Granma has never beaten Industriales in the postseason, then the question is, will this trend continue? Ten games and ten defeats is Granma all-time record against the Blue Lions but… we are in 2021 and I do believe Granma can put a stop to that trend. Granma and manager Carlos Martí enter this series as the favorites. The series should be an exciting battle between Industriales’ young rotation and the Granma’ power-packed lineup. Consider that four of the best Granma’s hitters have some type of experience playing pro-leagues: Raico Santos, Guillermo Avilés, Alfredo Despaigne, and Roel Santos – on his way back from Venezuela and pending to be added to the team. One hitter will be missed ate least during this Quarter-final series, Lázaro Cedeño (.331 BA/11 HRs), who is still recovering from an injury. Lefty Leandro Martínez will start Game 1 on Tuesday but ace Lázaro Blanco (7-1-2.01) is expected for Game 2 on Thursday.
It was an up-and-down season for Industriales and manager Guillermo Carmona. The team was affected like no other by the COVID-19 pandemic, ending on a 6-4 kick to win the postseason ticket. I know I already said that Granma is the favorite to win the series – going against history here – but Industriales remains dangerous. There is a lot of question marks for a rotation that seems to be one of the worst ever for an Industriales team. Brian Chi, the addition of RHP Maykel Taylor – with experience in foreign leagues but without pitching in Cuba for the last 6 years – José P. Cuesta (7-6-4.35), and relievers Andy Rodríguez (12 SV) and Héctor Ponce (7 SV) are Carmona’ best choices to stop Granma.
One of the top candidates to the MVP Award this season, Lisbán Correa, who led the league in HRs (28) and RBIs (82), will lead a team with the second worst number of runners stranded (2116), slightly better than…Granma (2161) and Cienfuegos (2161). Correa will be helped by experienced players such as Frank C. Morejón (.300), Stayler Hernández (.327/7 HRs/64 RBIs) and Yoandy Urgellés (.301), while youngsters Alberto Calderón and Jorge Alomá should be key in Industriales' success this postseason. With that said, there’s no such thing as an upset in a best-of-three series, and I repeat, Industriales is a dangerous team.
Prediction: Granma over Industriales
(Photos Rafael Viñales & Santiago Torres/Dubler Vázquez, Lisbán Correa & Guillermo Avilés/Yirsandy Rodríguez & Ibrahín Sánchez/Boris Luis Cabrera)