Playoffs 2021: In extra innings Leones defeat Alazanes, 5-4, in Game 1 of the NS Quarterfinals
There’s domination and there’s the Leones and the Alazanes in the postseason. With their unbelievably exciting 5-4 victory in 10 innings in Game 1 on Tuesday, the Leones have won 9 straight postseason games against the Alazanes, the longest win streak by any team against a single opponent in Cuban postseason history.
It didn’t matter that stars such as Alfredo Despaigne and Guillermo Avilés were back in Granma’s lineup for the game. Also it didn’t matter that Granma was three outs away from winning its first postseason game against Industriales. At the end, the Leones found a way to tie the game in the nineth, and take it to extra innings where they were able to score and beat the Alazanes, once again.
There was Alberto Calderón, who avenged his 0-for-3 in the nineth inning with his team facing defeat. Calderón led off the top of the inning with a solo homer off Granma closer Kelbis Rodríguez to tie the score at 4-4.
Then it was Industriales’ closer Andy Rodríguez who ended this Game 1 classic, picking up the final six outs. Andy had an almost perfect relief, retiring five of the six batters he faced, walking one with two strikeouts.
Andy Rodríguez was stellar on relief for Industriales. (Photo: IndustrialesdeLaHabana site)
Industriales scored first against starter Leandro Martínez in the first inning, when Jorge Luis Barcelán was hit by a pitch with bases loaded. The Leones extended their lead in the third, thanks to back-to-back singles of Stayler Hernández and Lisbán Correa, an error, and sacrifice fly of Barcelán.
Industriales starter Brian Chi kept Granma’ bats mostly quiet during the first four innings, but the 21 y/old righthander couldn’t hold the lead in the fifth. With one out Raico Santos doubled to right, Osvaldo Abreu was hit by a pitch, and Alfredo Despaigne drilled an RBI single to center as Santos beat the throw home.
Minutes later a wild pitch brought Abreu home with the tying run.
Alex Sánchez led off the seventh with a single off Chi, and Industriales’ manager, Guillermo Carmona, didn’t wait a minute and decided to pull Chi out of the game. Chi didn’t disappoint in only his second postseason career start, completing six innings of two runs – three at the end of the game – on six hits while striking out 3 with 3 walks. Carmona turned to Juan Peñalver, who got one out, but allowed Abreu’s single to center – well played by Guillén avoiding a double – that moved the runner to third and sacrifice fly of Despaigne to extend Granma’ lead to 4-2.
With only two more chances left, the Leones started their comeback in the eighth and nineth innings against Kelbis Rodríguez, who was asked to protect a two-run lead and pick-up a six-out save. He instead picked up a blown save.
In the eighth, back-to-back-to-back singles of Andrés Hernández, Barcelán, and pinch hitter Wilfredo Aroche cut the lead to 4-3. While in the nineth, center fielder Alberto Calderón sent a ball into history, going the other way off Rodríguez to tie the game 4-4.
In the tenth, Carmona continued to move his pieces and, with one out, pinch hitter Oscar Valdés singled to right off reliever Carlos Santana to get things started. Yosvany Peñalver followed with single to right field that moved Valdés to third base, and when Calderón grounded to Santana, he decided to throw to second to complete a 1-6-6-3 double play to end the inning, but Granma’ shortstop Yulián Milián made a throwing error to first allowing Valdés to score the winning run.
Wednesday is day off and Game 2 is scheduled on Thursday 10:00 am at José A. Huelga Stadium in Sancti Spíritus.
National Series Quarterfinals
Jan 26, Game 1: Ind 5, Grm 4 (10 Innings)
Jan 28, Game 2 – 10 a.m.: Probables, RHP Maikel Taylor (Ind) vs. RHP Lázaro Blanco (Grm)
Industriales leads the best-of-five series 1-0
(Top photo of Alberto Calderón: Andy Lans)