Playoffs 2021: Lázaro Blanco outpitch Vegueros, silencing Pinar bats to win Game 1 of the Semifinals
Roel Santos y Osvaldo Abreu hit back-to-back doubles in the bottom of the fourth inning and Lázaro Blanco silenced Pinar’s bats, giving the Granma Alazanes a 9-2 win over the Vegueros in Game 1 of the 2021 Cuban Postseason Semifinals on Saturday afternoon.
Santos and Abreu connected their doubles off starter Erlis Casanova, giving the Alazanes a 4-2 lead and the team never looked back.
Blanco, Granma’s ace, pitched eight innings before manager Carlos Martí turned things over closer Carlos Santana, who threw a scoreless ninth inning to secure victory. Santana allowed one hit and walked one batter with one out, but ended the game retiring the next two batters.
Pinar slugger Yaser J. González struck out one time and was caught stealing another, while William Saavedra hit his 22nd home run in Cuban postseasons as the only RBI Pinar’s batters had in the game.
After getting their first semifinals win the Alazanes will try to take a 2-0 lead today with veteran lefthander Leandro Martínez facing Pinar’s righthander Vladimir Baños.
Granma’ starter Lázaro Blanco was solid again. The right-hander has allowed three runs in 22 1/3 innings this Postseason and after an uncertain start, allowing two runs in the first three innings, he kept the Vegueros scoreless for five innings.
Pinar had some chances, scoring in the first and third innings – Saavedra’s homer – and putting seven runners on in the first five innings. But the Vegueros failed to come up with a timely hit and lost for the first time in the postseason.
Blanco retired 11 of the last 12 batters and struck out four of the last six he faced, before exiting after eight innings in a 108-pitch outing. He walked one and struck out six extending his strikeouts to 18 in 22 1/3 in the postseason.
Casanova carried a one-hit shutout into the fourth before walking Alexquemer Sánchez with two outs to load the bases. Santos was in an 0-1 count before the centerfielder drove his two-run double to left field to tie the score at 2-2. Abreu then followed with a two-run double to right field giving Granma a 4-2 lead.
An inning later Casanova allowed Carlos Benítez double to start the inning and he was immediately replaced. The righthander has allowed 10 runs in 8 1/3 innings this postseason. After walking two, reliever Yoandy Cruz ended the threat by striking out Iván Prieto and retiring David García in fly out to left field. However, Cruz was on shaky ground again in the sixth, allowing two singles and two doubles with Granma taking a 6-2 lead.
Frank Abel Álvarez came in with one out and one runner on and got the last two outs of the inning.
Pinar’s bullpen problems continue in the eighth, when Álvarez walked leadoff man Osvaldo Abreu to start. Raico Santos hit a double to left field to move Abreu to third and Carlos Benítez was intentionally walked to load the bases. Álvarez walked Prieto to make it 7-2 and manager Alfonso Urquiola sent up righty Andrés Castro, who induced a 3223 double play but allowed Miguel Pita single to center for the final two runs of the game.
National Series Semifinals
Feb 20, Game 1: Pri 2, Grm 9
Feb 21, Game 2 - 1 p.m.: Probables, Vladimir Baños, Pri vs. Leandro Martínez, Grm
Granma leads the best-of-seven series 1-0
(Top photo of Lázaro Blanco: Guillermo Rodríguez)