Crocodiles defeated Horses to pick up Opening Day win
There were fans in attendance at Mártires de Barbados Park for 1st time in almost two years. Yes, a total of 8,500 fans that were loud but still, could not avoid Granma's first loss of the season, during the 61th National Series Opening Day on Sunday.
The Matanzas Crocodiles turned the stadium as it was during the previous 2021 season without fans.
Eduardo Blanco led off the 7th with a solo-homer, Naykel Cruz struck out 3 in 4 1/3 innings allowing just one single, and the Crocodiles ended up beating the Granma Horses 4-3 Sunday afternoon in the Cuban season opener.
Aníbal Medina hit a solo-homer off César García's first pitch of the game, to give the visitors an early 1-0 lead. Matanzas scored another run in the first inning, thanks to Erisbel Arruebarrena double to left field that scored Javier Camero from second.
However, Granma did not waste any time responding to the early attack. In the bottom of the first, Roel Santos singled, moved to second in Osvaldo Abreu ground ball to Medina at short, scoring when Raico Santos singled to right field off starter Noelvis Entenza. 12 pitches later and Granma was tying the score, when Guillermo García sent Guille Avilés home with single to left field.
Mtz 2, Gra 2
Granma kicked Entenza out of the game in the 5th inning. Ariel Sánchez got on base and scored when Osvaldo Abreu doubled to right-field for a 3-2 lead.
Entenza, who beat Granma twice last season, allowed three runs and four hits in 4 1/3 innings with two strikeouts and two walks. He ended up with no decision.
Letfty Naikel Cruz came in relief and he was fantastic, first retiring Raico Santos in ground ball to third and then striking out Avilés to end the inning.
In the top of 6th, Granma' starter César García allowed the tying run, when Jefferson Delgado doubled and then, with two outs, Arruebarrena singled to right-field bringing Delgado home. One inning later, the fate of the game was decided. Manager Carlos Martí did not call his bullpen after García's difficult 6th inning and ended up paying the price. Eduardo Blanco took care of business starting the inning, producing a solo-homer to center-field off García's 81 pitch of the game, for a decisive 4-3 win.
For Matanzas, reliever Naikel Cruz just cruised the rest of the game. The young lefty allowed only one single - of Avilés in the 8th - while struck-out 3 and walked none in 4 2/3 inning using 69 pitches, 65% of them strikes.
César García, who started the seventh but completed only six innings, took the loss after allowing four runs on 8 hits, including two homers. García struck-out three and walked two during his first start of the season.
It was García's third loss against Matanzas in the last two seasons.