• 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