• Ray Otero-Alonso

Playoffs 2021: Leñadores eliminate Avispas from playoffs, 10-2, to advance to the semifinals


The Las Tunas Leñadores clinched a ticket to the 60th National Series semifinals at Cándido González Stadium in Camagüey, getting home runs from Rafael Viñales and Yordanis Alarcón in beating the Santiago de Cuba Avispas 10-2 in four games.


BOX SCORE


Two days after a 7-0 shutout in Game 3, the Leñadores’s pitchers extended to 24 the consecutive innings without allowing a run against the Avispas.


Leñadores starter Alejandro Meneses allowed José L. Gutiérrez’s triple in the first inning but then retired Yoelkis Guibert and Edilse Silva to end the inning and extend to 20 the consecutive scoreless innings against Santiago’s hitters.


Four similar innings would follow, with Santiago putting at least a runner on base in every inning except the fourth, but always unable to score against the right-hander.


In the meantime, Santiago’s starter Carlos Font – who also started Games 1 and 3 – was back in the mound with one day rest and after throwing 44 pitches on Tuesday, to face the same lineup that knock him out of the game early during Game 3 of the series.


And Font faced the pressure early again. In the bottom of the second inning Rafael Viñales doubled to center field and scored on Yordanis Alarcón single. Two innings later, it was Viñales again, who hit a solo home run to center field to make it 2-0.



Santiago would break “Las Tunas pitchers’ magic” in the top of the sixth inning, when back-to-back doubles by Guibert and Silva cut Las Tunas’ lead in half.



Meneses settled down and retired the next two batters, but then walked Denis Alá and allowed Yaicel Pérez’s double to left field to tie the score at 2-2.



After 98 pitches, Leñadores manager Pablo Civil decided to replace Meneses with his son, Alberto P. Civil. The right-hander ended the threat retiring Marcos L. Fonseca in fly out to right field.



Civil, the only reliever Las Tunas used in Game 4, then went to retire nine of the eleven batters he faced. He allowed Guibert and Rudén Sánchez’ singles in the 7th and 8th innings, respectively, with no damage, completing 3 1/3 scoreless innings of relief for the win.



The Avispas’ pitching strategy of using Font three times in the series, trying to overcome a depleted starting rotation, couldn’t rebound from the collapse. In Game 2 Santiago manager Heriberto Rosales decided to leave starter Alberto Bicet after 99 pitches, and the right-hander threw an excessive 109 pitches that, according to the postseason pitching rules, unable him for pitching in Game 4.


And this time Santiago starter Carlos Font was definitely better than in Game 3, but it wasn’t enough. During five innings he was able to keep his team in the game but the collapse was near. In the bottom of the sixth, an error, a hit by a pitch and Yordanis Alarcón’ single to right field gave Las Tunas a decisive 3-2 lead. With already 72 pitches Rosales pulled his starter and Santiago would be out of the postseason in the next 15 minutes.



Font couldn’t do more. He had a decent start completing 5 1/3 innings and finishing with 3 strikeouts and one walk, five runs – three earned - on five hits.


And while Las Tunas had Civil, Santiago had to rely on a stream of four relievers for the final three innings. None of them could control Las Tunas bats. In an endless sixth inning, Las Tunas broke the game open scoring six runs on four hits, that included Andrés de la Cruz and Yuniesky Larduet’s doubles.


An inning later, reliever Uber L. Mejías walked Rafael Viñales and then allowed a two-run homer by Yordanis Alarcón for the final 10-2 score.


Manager Pablo Civil and a really inspired Las Tunas team will face the defending champion Matanzas, in a repeat of the 2020 semifinals won by Matanzas 3-1, starting Sunday. The winner of the best-of-seven series will face Granma in the finals.


Hightlights



National Series Quarter Finals

Jan 26, Game 1: Ltu 4, Scu 7

Feb 28, Game 2: Ltu 3, Scu 0

Mar 2, Game 3: Scu 0, Ltu 7

Mar 4, Game 4: Scu 2, Ltu 10


Las Tunas won the best-of-five series 3-1

(Top photo of Las Tunas: Leandro Pérez/Photo of Alberto P. Civil: Leandro Pérez/Photo of Carlos Font: GameTime Sport)