Playoffs 2021: Viera and Leñadores take Game 1 from Cocodrilos, 4-2
Carlos Juan Viera is having his own show this postseason.
Viera held the defending champions, the Matanzas Cocodrilos, in two runs, Andrés Quiala homered for the first time this postseason, and the Leñadores scored two decisive runs in the eighth inning, to lock down a 4-2 victory Sunday afternoon at José A. Huelga Stadium in Sancti Spíritus, and take a 1-0 lead in the 2021 Cuban Semifinals.
Quiala homered early off Yoanni Yera, who worked eight innings while keeping the Leñadores close. But they never broke through against a dominant Viera, who threw a complete game to win his second straight decision.
Viera escaped a bases-loaded jam in the third and stranded eight runners, improving to 2-0 with a 1.02 ERA in two playoff outings this year. The 31-year-old right-hander allowed 10 hits and struck out five for the win. The right-hander is one of the reasons Las Tunas has big chances of winning its second National Series Championship.
Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is Monday at 1:00 pm (E.T.) and right-hander Noelvis Entenza is expected to take the mound for Matanzas, while left-hander Yudiel Rodríguez will start for Las Tunas.
In the first inning and after seven pitches, Andrés Quiala homered off Yera to give Las Tunas an early 1-0 lead. In the first Yera also allowed Yosvany Alarcón infield hit, but had no issues retiring the inning.
Meanwhile Viera looked really sharp to start the game, retiring the first eight batters he faced. With two outs and two on – back-to-back singles by Yadiel Mujica and Aníbal Medina - in the bottom of the third inning, Ariel Sánchez hit a lined drive to left field to tie the game at 1-1 while Anibal Medina was caught trying to get to third base from first, in a dumb base running play that ended the inning.
Las Tunas answered against Yera in the top of the fourth. With one out Yosvany Alarcón doubled to center field and went to third when Rafael Viñales singled to the left side. Minutes later Yordanis Alarcón sacrifice fly to center field made it 2-1.
In the fifth Matanzas would score its last run of the game to once again tie the game against Viera.
Eduardo Blanco doubled to center to start the inning, moved to third when Yadil Mujica singled through the right side, and scored on Medina’s single to left. Viera, with already 67 pitches and runners in the corners, looked in trouble but got a second air when with 11 pitches struck out Ariel Sánchez and Jefferson Delgado to end the threat. The right-hander would allow three more hits – two in the ninth – in the rest of the game.
And Yera, who had retired eleven of the last thirteen batters faced since Viñales’ single in the fourth inning with two strikeouts, got in trouble in the eight, an inning that proved to be decisive.
Las Tunas got a rally going in the eighth against Yera. Yadir Drake’s error in right field allowed Yuniesky Larduet get on base to start the inning. Larduet went to second with Quiala’s infield single, while Yosvany Alarcón’ single combined with Ariel Sánchez’ error in left field, allowed both runners to score for a decisive 4-2 lead.
Yera, a little unlucky on his outing, went to pitch eight innings allowing four runs – two earned – on seven hits, six strikeouts and two walks for the loss.
In the ninth Viera ran into trouble after retiring the first two batters of the inning. With already 125 pitches in the game, the righty allowed back-to-back singles by pinch hitters Juan M. Vázquez and William Luis Campillo, giving some hope to Matanzas’ team. Leñadores manager Pablo Civil didn’t lift his starter, and the veteran right-hander responded, only needing three pitches to retire Medina in foul pop to catcher Alarcón to end the game.
It was Las Tunas fourth consecutive win this postseason.
National Series Semifinals
Mar 7, Game 1: Ltu 4, Mtz 2
Mar 8, Game 2 - 1 p.m. (ET): Probables, LHP Yudiel Rodríguez (Ltu) vs. RHP Noelvis Entenza (Mtz)
Las Tunas leads the best-of-seven series 1-0
(Top photo of Carlos Juan Viera: Oscar Alfonso/Photo of the game: Guillermo Rodríguez)