Playoffs 2021: Adiós Leones, Granma beat Industriales in Game 5 thriller to reach the semifinals
Granma beat all odds, erased a negative image of nine consecutive losses against Industriales, and ended two years of postseason futility.
Iván Prieto go-ahead double in the third inning, excellent pitching of Lázaro Blanco, and repeated Industriales’s baserunning mistakes, helped Granma to win a decisive Game 5, 2-1, of the Cuban Quarterfinals on Wednesday afternoon, becoming the second team to advance to the Semifinals of the 2021 Cuban Postseason.
Led by ace Lázaro Blanco, the Alazanes first ended a string of nine consecutive games losing against Industriales in postseasons, and Blanco, once again, helped them to win their first postseason series against the Leones.
With the win, Granma reached the semifinals for the first time since 2017, when they won their second Cuban championship. Granma will face the Pinar del Río Vegueros in the best-of-seven semifinals series.
Granma will be the first seed team heading to the semifinals.
In a tense game - the score tells you everything - Blanco threw seven innings of one run with six strikeouts and two walks. He sat in the low-90s with his heater and completed his job in 111 pitches. It appeared that manager Carlos Martí might leave in Blanco in the eighth – Blanco took the mound - but in the end the veteran righthander signaled Martí and the manager opted instead for Kelvis Rodríguez. Overall, Blanco had a second outstanding outing - won Game 2 -, and he is one of the reasons why we could easily see Granma in the finals.
On the opposite side, starter Maykel Taylor did not last long. The righthander left the mound after walking the first to batters he faced. Manager Guillermo Carmona went out and called Pavel Hernández, and Hernández, after allowing Carlos Benítez' single to tie the score at 1-1, traded zeros with Blanco for most of his outing.
Hernández went 6 1/3 innings, struck out five batters, walked two, and allowed the decisive run on five hits and 108 pitches. Since the third inning, when Carlos Benítez and Iván Prieto doubled to give Granma the 2-1 lead, Hernández retired 12 of the last 14 batters he faced, allowing one hit and giving up a walk. He exited in the seventh, after hitting Osvaldo Abreu, but if for something Pavel Hernández will be remembered this postseason, it will be for the two strikeouts given to Alfredo Despaigne in the first and third innings, and, in general, for its calm and maturity on the mound today.
In Game 5 Industriales’ base running will also be remembered. Losing by the minimum the Leones had two chances to even the score, but big mistakes running the bases prevented them for doing so. In the seventh, with one runner on, Andrés Hernández hit a long single off the wall in right field moving the runner from first to third, but right fielder Alexquemer Sánchez threw him out trying to get to second to end the inning. An inning later it was a repeat. Lisbán Correa singled to right and Sánchez did not waste any time putting him out when Correa was trying to get to second.
And while manager Carlos Martí struggled with his pitching moves in Game 4, in Game 5 he guided four pitchers through the Leones lineup, finished by Carlos R. Santana, who pitched the ninth and close it out with a strikeout and a walk.
Industriales, since the 2009-10 season when the won the championship, has been in postseasons six times and lost them all, including the 2012 Finals against Ciego de Ávila by sweep (4-0). Their winning record during that period is .405 (17-25).
Granma, who returned to the postseason for the first time since 2018, has won five consecutive postseason series, and, since the 2016-17 season has a .679 (19-9) winning record with two Cuban Championships.
Notes: In the game Industriales second baseman Juan C. Torriente collected his 1000th career hit off Lázaro Blanco in the top of the sixth inning.
National Series Quarterfinals
Jan 27, Game 1: Ind 5, Grm 4 (10 Innings)
Jan 28, Game 2: Ind 0, Grm 3
Jan 30, Game 3: Grm 4, Ind 0
Feb 1, Game 4: Grm 3, Ind 10
Feb 3, Game 5: Ind 1, Grm 2
Granma won the best-of-five series 3-2
(Top photo of Granma's team celebrating: Oscar Alfonso Sosa/Photo of Lázaro Blanco: Oscar Alfonso Sosa)