• Ray Otero-Alonso

Playoffs 2021: Rivero, Blanco key for Matanzas; Suárez perfect in save for 1-0 win in Game 3


Renner Rivero’s 6 1/3 innings gem was saved when Eduardo Blanco singled in the top of the seventh inning, to give Matanzas Cocodrilos a 1-0 victory over the Las Tunas Leñadores, in Game 3 of the Cuban Semifinals on Wednesday afternoon.


BOX SCORE


Joel Suárez got a two-innings save as Matanzas avoided to go 0-3 in the best-of-seven series. With two on in the eighth, Suárez came on relief of Naykel Cruz, retiring the next three batters to end the threat and preserve the 1-0 lead. In the ninth, Suárez was once again perfect for his first save of the series. The veteran right-hander threw 20 pitches and will be available for Game 4.



The Cocodrilos got a splendid performance from starter Rivero in a duel with Las Tunas starter Alejandro Meneses. The Matanzas right-hander threw 98 pitches allowing three hits, five strikeouts and four walks.


Matanzas right fielder Yadil Dreke came through with a huge double against Meneses in the top of the seventh, and then Blanco seal the victory with a key RBI-single to center field for the only run of the game.



The biggest test for Matanzas starter Rivero came in the first inning. With one out Andrés Quiala singled to left field but Rivero fanned No. 3 batter Danel Castro for the second out of the inning. And when Yosvany Alarcón moved Quiala to second with another single, Rivero didn’t panic and struck out Rafael Viñales to end the inning.


From that moment on Rivero allowed one more hit – Danel Castro in the third inning – and walked four with two strikeouts, in an 88-pitch performance that gives Matanzas a boost in the series. In the seventh, Rivero started the inning walking Yordanis Alarcón, and then Las Tunas manager Pablo Civil ordered a sacrifice bunt with Andrés de la Cruz, a play that was poorly executed and ended with Alarcón being retired at second base for the first out of the inning. It was a key play at the end of the game, especially because nowadays teams value outs more than ever and are more averse to giving them away.



De la Cruz was the last batter Rivero retired in the game. He was pulled facing pinch hitter Denis Peña in a 0-2 count. Young lefty Naykel Cruz came on relief and struck out Peña before hitting PH Eduardo García. With two on, Cruz would end the inning retiring Yuniesky Larduet in flyout to center field.


To be fair, Las Tunas starter Alejandro Meneses matched Rivero into the seventh. The right-hander, who was 6-6 with a 4.59 ERA in 13 starts this season, gave up six hits and three walks in 6 2/3 innings. He was also helped by one double play and a runner caught stealing. Meneses struck out only one and was lifted after 97 pitches.


Game 4 is Thursday afternoon (1 pm E.T.), with Ángel Sánchez scheduled to start for Las Tunas. Matanzas will go with Naykel Cruz.



Highlights



National Series Semifinals

Mar 7, Game 1: Ltu 4, Mtz 2

Mar 8, Game 2: Ltu 10, Mtz 6

Mar 10, Game 3: Mtz 1, Ltu 0

Mar 11, Game 4 - 1 p.m. (ET): Probables, LHP Ángel Sánchez (Ltu) vs. LHP Naykel Cruz (Mtz)


Las Tunas leads the best-of-seven series 2-1

(Top photo of Renner Rivero: Prensa Latina)