• Ray Otero-Alonso

CNS Roundup: Changes in the standings, the All-Star Game, a no-no, and a NS offensive record

Where to begin? It has been two excellent weeks of baseball since our last post - that includes the festivities for the 34th All-Star Game and a new offensive record in Cuban Baseball history. Regarding the standings, a lot has changed in the 2020 Cuban regular season. The Matanzas Cocodrilos (29-18) continue leading the 60th NS, followed now by Santiago de Cuba and Cienfuegos - only one game behind. Three other teams are “in business” for the 2020 postseason: two-time champion Granma, four-time champion Pinar del Río, and 2018 champion Las Tunas, the latter with a streak of five consecutive wins. Sancti Spíritus is ranked seventh, but the biggest disappointment right now is Camagüey. The Toros were swept by Cienfuegos over the weekend and they have lost eight of the last ten games, descending to the always difficult 8th place. The top-8 teams are followed by four other contenders: Industriales (25-22), the surprising Mayabeque (24-23), Villa Clara (21-22), and Holguín (22-25), all of them with still chances to make it to the postseason when we approach the last 25 games of the season.

The 2020 All-Star Game


The 2020 All-Star Game was the 34th National Series ASG. After three suspensions due to weather conditions, the game was hosted by Santiago de Cuba and was played at Guillermón Moncada Stadium on Tuesday, November 10, with the Future Stars Team prevailing over the Present Stars Team, 8-6.


All-Star Game box score


For first time in National Series ASG history (1963-2020), the traditional East and West teams were replaced by Future Stars (U25) and Present All-Stars (25 year and older) teams.

Here is how it all happened.


Santiago Torres named MVP


The Future Stars were behind 6-5 in the eight, when PH Iván Prieto tied the game with a solo homer against Noelvis Entenza, and then 25-year-old Torres put his team ahead with another solo homer off reliever Joel Mojena. Torres went 2-for-3 in the game, also adding an important RBI in the seventh, to bring his team closer 6-5.


Both starters failed


Youngster Yosimar Cousín (Future) and veteran Lázaro Blanco (Present) had rough starts, and either of them could not get three outs. Cousin had a disastrous first inning – three hits and a walk -, as he allowed Billy Correa Grand Slam for the shortest outing of his career. Correa’s homer was historic because it was the first Grand Slam in National Series ASG history. On the other hand, Blanco recorded only two outs allowing three runs on four hits and a walk.

In the fourth, the Present Team added two more runs extending their lead 6-3, but in the seventh Present Team’s reliever Erlis Casanova gave up three hits and two runs, allowing the Future Team to start a comeback in the game.


Future Team bullpen seals the victory


There is no doubt that Torres performance was key in the game, but we need to add that the Future Team’s bullpen also shined, shutting down the Present Team to seal the victory. The young arms of Yankiel Mauri (Sancti Spíritus), Renner Rivero (Matanzas), rookie Laidel Torres (Artemisa), Yunior Tur (Santiago de Cuba), and Andy Rodríguez (Industriales) combined for five-scoreless innings, allowing two hits and three walks and striking out six. Rookie Laidel Torres’ scoreless seventh inning gave him the win. Torres walked one batter but managed to face the minimum to keep the score 6-5, giving his team the opportunity to comeback an inning later. Andy Rodríguez took the save completing 1 1/3 innings, striking out three, including Rafael Viñales and Yoelkis Guibert in the ninth, to end the game.


Other activities


Cuba’s special All-Star Weekend festivities include not only the classic ASG but a display of on-field skills - pruebas de habilidades - in which star league players compete in contests involving base-running, infield and outfield throwing accuracy, and long-distance throwing strength. Sunday’s game also featured the traditional home run hitting contest. These were the winners:


Home to First Base Time: José Luis Gutiérrez (Santiago de Cuba) 3:43 seconds.

Home to Home Time: José Luis Gutiérrez (Santiago de Cuba) 13:95 seconds.

Catcher’s throw to second: Richel López (Cienfuegos).

Double Play competition: SS-Yorbis Borroto (Ciego de Ávila), 2B- Jorge Enrique Alomá (Industriales), and Lisbán Correa (Industriales) – 1.95 seconds to complete a 6-4-4-3 double play.

HR Derby: Pinar’s outfielder Yasser Julio González (40 HR) broke Yasmani Tomás’ record (38) set in 2013



1. Yasser Julio González (Pinar del Río) – 40 HRs

First Round: 25

Second Round: 15

2. Luis González (Camagüey) – 33 HRs

First Round: 20

Second Round: 13



Highlights of the Week (s):

42-Game Hitting Streak: Cienfuegos César Prieto is the new Rey del Hit


During this past weekend, Cienfuegos 21-year-old second baseman César Prieto broke Rey Isaac’s record of 37-game hitting streak. The Cienfuegos Elefantes played the Camagüey Toros in a doubleheader on Saturday, November 21. Prieto attempted to break the Isaac’s record for the longest single-season NS hitting streak against the Toros in the first game. The game, rescheduled from September 24 and where Prieto was 0-for-2, saw the infielder in his first at bat – officially third – and in a 2-2 count, singled to right field against LHP reliever Rodolfo Sorís, to go down in history as the new record holder with 40 games.



In the second game, Prieto doubled off RHP Frank Madan in his initial at-bat to run the streak to 41 games.



On Sunday, November 22 Prieto extended the record to 42 games, with single to center field vs. Yusney Saborit in the fifth inning. Prieto started the streak on September 19 with an infield hit in the fifth inning against Las Tunas LHP Yudiel Rodríguez. Santiago’s outfielder Rey Isaac held the previous 37-games record since 1994. Isaac’s 1994 streak was cut short on December 17, 1994 by Industriales and future Yankee’ sensation RHP Orlando “Duque” Hernández. 9,741 days later, Prieto announced to the world he was the new Cuban record holder.



Matanzas’ Noelvis Entenza throws second "no-hitter" of 2020 NS season


For the 2nd time in franchise history, a Matanzas pitcher has thrown a no-hitter. This time was RHP Noelvis Entenza taking down the Granma Alazanes in a 3-0 victory in seven innings. It was the first career no-hitter for 35-year-old Entenza. It was only the second Matanzas no-no since Jorge Martínez on January 29, 2009 against Industriales at Latinoamericano Stadium. The most recent no-hitter was delivered this season by RHP Arnaldo Rodríguez of Ciego de Ávila on October 29. There was one no-hitter last season. In a game played at Mártires de Barbados Stadium and in a controversial decision, Entenza was credited with the no-no after what most people considered was a scoring error by the official scorer of the game. It happened during the sixth inning of the game, when with a runner on, Osvaldo Abreu' groundball to center field was stopped by Matanzas' shorstop Sandy Menocal, who had no clear possibility of out in any bases. The official scorer initially credited Abreu with a hit, but it was pressured to change it to an error. Just judge yourself by watching the user's - Jorge Quesada - video shared on his Facebook page. The decision was upheld and Entenza completed his "heroic" feat an inning later.



Entenza walked three and hit one batter during his 7 innings of work. The veteran righthander was not brilliant, but using his slow speed pitches became an enigma for Granma’s hitters. He faced 25 hitters and only struck out two. Matanzas scored one run in the third inning and two more in the fifth to seal the victory. Overall, it was the 59th no-hitter in National Series history since the league started back in 1962, and probably the most controversial since December 8, 1992, when Ernesto Guevara Ramos pitched No-hitter #36 against Industriales...and guess what, in the same Mártires de Barbados Stadium.



Some Feats During the Past Two Weeks


Sat 11/21: César Prieto broke Rey Issac’s record of 37-game hitting streak reaching 40 against Camagüey.

Sat 11/21: Santiago de Cuba beat Artemisa by the mercy rule in five innings, 18-0.

Sun 11/15: Las Tunas' infielder Danel Castro hit his 229th career home run passing Ciego's outfielder Yoelvis Fiss in the 28th historic place in NS.

Tue 11/10: Lisbán Correa of Industriales but playing for the Present Stars Team, hit the first Grand Slam in All-Star Game history. Correa homered off RHP Yosimar Cousín in the first inning during an 8-6 loss against the Future Stars Team.

Tue 11/10: Holguín catcher Iván Prieto homered off RHP Noelvis Entenza during his first ever All-Star at bat. By doing so, Prieto became the first ever catcher to homer in a National Series ASG during his first at bat.

Wed 11/4: Matanzas’ veteran RHP Noelvis Entenza tossed the 59th no-no in National Series history. Entenza completed his feat against Granma in a 3-0 win at Mártires de Barbados Stadium in Granma.


Player of the Week (November 14-19): Carlos Juan Viera, Las Tunas Leñadores


After striking out 10 and allowing no runs in the 16 innings he threw last week, Las Tunas’ righthander Carlos Juan Viera was selected the Player of the Week on Monday. Viera twirled a seven scoreless innings with four strikeouts against the leader Matanzas on November 14, in an 8-0 win. Five days later, on November 19, Viera threw his third career shutout against Cienfuegos, allowing four hits and striking out 6 in a 6-0 win. Viera's work was key in Las Tunas' five-game winning streak.



Player of the Week (October 31-November 5): Yankiel Mauri, Sancti Spíritus Gallos


The 60th National Series selection from Oct 31 to Nov 5 was right-hander reliever Yankiel Mauri from the Sancti Spíritus Gallos. Two great performances over the week helped him claim the Player of the Week honor on Monday (Oct 9). Mauri wrapped the week by completing 5 1/3 scoreless innings with three hits and no walks. Mauri was recognized for his two appearances, collecting two wins.



Season’s Leaders

Batting


Batting Average: César Prieto (Cienfuegos) .412

Home Runs: Lisbán Correa (Industriales) 18

Runs Batted In: Dennis Laza (Mayabeque) 54

Stolen Bases: Yuniesky Larduet (Las Tunas) 16

Runs: César Prieto (Cienfuegos) 50

On-Base Percentage: Frederich Cepeda (Sancti Spíritus) .574


Pitching


Earned Run Average: Yankiel Mauri (Sancti Spíritus) 1.29

Strikeouts: Frank Madan (Camagüey) 62

Wins: Carlos Font (Santiago de Cuba) & Yankiel Mauri (Sancti Spíritus) 8

Saves: David Mena (Matanzas) 11


Upcoming Series (Nov 24-26)


1 pm (ET) – Victoria de Girón Stadium – Pinar del Río @ Sancti Spíritus

10 am (ET) – José R. Cepero Stadium – Artemisa @ Ciego de Ávila

10 am (ET) – Cándido González Stadium – Isla de la Juventud @ Camagüey

1 pm (ET) – Julio A. Mella Stadium – Industriales @ Las Tunas

1 pm (ET) – Calixto García Stadium – Cienfuegos @ Holguín

1 pm (ET) – Mártires de Barbados Stadium – Villa Clara @ Granma

1 pm (ET) – Guillermón Moncada Stadium – Mayabeque @ Santiago de Cuba

1 pm (ET) – Nguyen van Troi Stadium – Matanzas @ Guantánamo


Upcoming Series (Nov 28-29)


2 pm (ET) – José A. Huelga Stadium – Artemisa @ Sancti Spíritus

2 pm (ET) – José R. Cepero Stadium – Pinar del Río @ Ciego de Ávila

2 pm (ET) – Cándido González Stadium – Industriales @ Camagüey

2 pm (ET) – Julio A. Mella Stadium – Isla de la Juventud @ Las Tunas

2 pm (ET) – Calixto García Stadium – Villa Clara @ Holguín

2 pm (ET) – Mártires de Barbados Stadium – Cienfuegos @ Granma

2 pm (ET) – Guillermón Moncada Stadium – Matanzas @ Santiago de Cuba

2 pm (ET) – Nguyen van Troi Stadium – Mayabeque @ Guantánamo

(Photos Santiago Torres, Yasser Julio González & César Prieto/Roberto Morejón & Aslám Castellón)