Playoffs 2021: Leñadores take 2-0 series lead over Cocodrilos after 10-6 win in Game 2
2020 was different…not only because of the COVID-19 pandemic but because Matanzas had basically no opposition against Las Tunas in route to its first National Series title. 2021 looks completely different for Matanzas during the Cuban semifinal playoffs. The defending champion is in a hole.
After Las Tunas took Game 1 somewhat convincingly, they rolled in Game 2, 10-6, to take a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
On Monday’s game Matanzas scored three runs in the first inning against starter Yudiel Rodríguez, but then the score was 4-3 Leñadores heading into the fourth, and then in the next three innings the wheels fell off.
In a three-run rally in the sixth that was highlighted by five hits and Matanzas’ fifth error in the game, the Leñadores would go up 9-3 and that was pretty much that. Matanzas did get a couple of meaningless runs late – two in the eighth and one in the ninth – but it was ultimately a four-run victory and Las Tunas was never in danger of losing the game.
Las Tunas is now two games away from heading to the 2021 Cuban Finals, which they can do with wins in Games 3 and 4, “playing at home”, on Wednesday and Thursday.
Matanzas had a chance to tie the series when they started aggressively against Rodríguez. In the first inning the defending champions put three runs on four hits, but were unable to get the starter out of the game when Rodríguez retired Yadil Mujica in a 64 groundball with bases loaded to end the inning.
Against Noelvis Entenza Las Tunas put four runners on bases in the first two innings, but couldn’t get any run. They finally got to Entenza in the top of the third, an inning where Matanzas’ defense made three errors to add to the four, they had in Game 1. It was a terrible inning for the Cocodrilos.
Las Tunas scored two runs with three hits against Entenza in the fourth, an inning that included Héctor Castillo triple, a wild pitch that allowed Castillo to score, and Danel Castro RBI-single to make it 6-3. Two innings later and Entenza wouldn’t make it out of the sixth. Cocodrilos manager pulled Entenza in the sixth, when Matanzas scored three runs extending their lead 9-3. The veteran righty went 5 1/3 innings allowing nine runs – four earned – on 10 hits with two strikeouts and a walk. He threw 98 pitches and, to be honest, even when he was not helped by his defense, he was never in control of the game.
Meanwhile, since Andrys Pérez walk in the first inning and until the eighth, Yudiel Rodríguez put up a great performance, going 6 1/3 innings without allowing a run on just four hits, one walk and five strikeouts. There’s not much you can do about that. During that stretch the left-hander had real trouble in the fourth inning, when Mujica singled to start the inning and, with one out, Ariel Sánchez moved Mujica to third with another single. But Rodríguez remained calmed and got out of trouble striking out Jefferson Delgado, and retiring Yadil Dreke in a soft fly to shortstop Andrés de la Cruz with his pitch number 76 of the game.
Matanzas would score two runs against Rodríguez in the eighth, an inning when they had three hits. When Rodríguez left the mound after the eighth, he had completed eight innings of five runs – three earned – with eleven hits, six strikeouts and two walks for his second win this postseason. The lefty wasn’t brilliant the all way, but he was good enough to dominate a dangerous Matanzas lineup.
The Cocodrilos threatened in the ninth against closer Yosbel Alarcón, getting one run across and putting two runners on, before Alarcón got out of trouble retiring pinch hitter Juan M. Vázquez in fly out to center field to put Las Tunas up 2-0 in the series.
Game 3 is on Wednesday afternoon (1 pm E.T) and the Cocodrilos will try to get a first win when right-hander Renner Rivero starts against Alejandro Meneses.
According to our writer Yirsandy Rodríguez, the only time Matanzas has been in a 0-2 deficit in a best-of-seven series was in the 2013 Postseason semifinals against Sancti Spíritus. They ended up winning the series 4-3, with victories in Games 3 (4-0), 4 (3-1), 5 (4-3), and 7 (10-5).
National Series Semifinals
Mar 7, Game 1: Ltu 4, Mtz 2
Mar 8, Game 2: Ltu 10, Mtz 6
Mar 10, Game 3 - 1 p.m. (ET): Probables, RHP Alejandro Meneses (Ltu) vs. RHP Renner Rivero (Mtz)
Las Tunas leads the best-of-seven series 2-0
(Top photo of Yudiel Rodrtguez: GameTime Sport/Photo of the game: Guillermo Rodríguez)