Playoffs 2021: Pinar del Río wins Game 1, beat Sancti Spíritus, 9-7, in 10-innings
They were down but never out. Facing a two-run deficit in the seventh inning of a key Game 1 of the Cuban National Series Quarterfinals, Pinar del Río pulled off a win in the second extra innings game of the 2021 Cuban postseason.
Lázaro Emilio Blanco hit a single into the right field off Gallos reliever Yanieski Duardo in the 10th inning to score shortstop Juan C. Arencibia from second base, giving the Vegueros a decisive 8-7 lead – 9-7 was the final score – for a dramatic victory on Wednesday afternoon at 5 de Septiembre stadium in Cienfuegos.
The Vegueros lead the best-of-five Series, 1-0, and will send Vladimir Baños to the mound in Game 2 against Yamichel Pérez on Friday morning, with a chance to put Sancti Spíritus against the wall.
Neither Yoen Socarrás nor Erlis Casanova, starters of Game 1, made it through the sixth inning. Casanova allowed seven runs (6 earned) and seven hits in 4 1/3 innings, and Socarrás allowed seven runs (five earned) and eight hits in 5 frames. Both bullpens saw a lot of action, but Pinar’s bullpen was much better and that was one of the keys of the game for them.
Reilandy González, Frank L. Medina, Liván Moinelo, and Raidel Martínez, combined for 5 2/3 scoreless innings of relief, giving their team a chance to comeback and win Game 1.
Pedro Álvarez, working his fourth inning, recorded one out in the 10th before allowing Juan C. Arencibia’s double to right field. Sancti Spíritus’ manager, Eriel Sánchez, pulled out Álvarez and brought in Yanieski Duardo, one of his best relievers. Duardo walked pinch hitter Reinier León and allowed Blanco’ single to right field that scored Arencibia. Pinar was winning 8-7. William Saavedra followed with a grounder - fielder’s choice RBI - for the final score, 9-7.
After the fourth inning the game was a back and forth until the seventh. Sancti Spíritus scored two runs in the first inning while Pinar discounted one against Socarrás in the second. But in the fifth, Arencibia’s double tied the score at 2, while an intentional walk to Blanco didn’t work out well for Sancti Spíritus when William Saavedra went deep to put Pinar del Río ahead, 5-2. It was Saavedra’s 21st home run in Cuban postseasons, fifth in the all-time list.
After Vegueros took the lead scoring four runs in the top of the fifth inning, Sancti Spíritus turned the tables on Pinar by coming back from a 5-2 deficit in the bottom of the fifth. Three consecutive singles loaded the bases, and an error by Pinar’ shortstop allowed Sancti Spíritus to cut the lead to 5-4. Minutes later Frederich Cepeda hit a three-run homer off starter Casanova to put Sancti Spíritus back on top, 7-5. Sancti Spíritus would not score more in the game.
The lead didn’t last much. In the top of the sixth, an error and four consecutive singles by Acosta, Rojas, Dueñas, and Arencibia, allowed Pinar to tie the game at 7, sending starter Socarrás to the showers. Pedro Álvarez threw 3 2/3 on relief allowing only three hits and the decisive run in the 10th. He was charged with the loss.
Pinar’s closer Raidel Martínez was brilliant during his 2 innings of work. His fastball was clocked at 97 mph and had some movement. He faced seven batters allowing only one hit while striking out four, three in the tenth to earn the win.
National Series Quarterfinals
Jan 27, Game 1: Pri 9, Ssp 7 (10 Innings)
Jan 29, Game 2 – 10 a.m.: Probables, Vladimir Baños, Pri (9-6-3.93) vs. Yamichel Pérez, Ssp (7-7-4.50)
Pinar del Río leads the best-of-five series 1-0
(Top photo of William Saavedra: Radio Rebelde)