Simplicity is the key word for baseball in Cuba, with no luxury boxes, huge electronic scoreboards or celebrity baseball players. As in many things in Cuba, there is no shortage of passion and this season has been no exception. As the season nears its conclusion, we have to follow our blue beating heart and side with Havana’s Industriales who will face Matanzas’s Cocodrilos in Cuba’s Championship Series from April 8-17.
(There is the small matter of beating Pinar del Río’s Vegueros one more time first for Havana’s leones, but already 3:1 up in the series it would be a shocker of epic proportions were they not to make it).
Matanzas had the best record in the regular season this year, showing a quick return for Cuba’s most esteemed coach, Victor Mesa, who was hired as team manager at the season’s outset. He will be keen to lay to rest his record of defeats against Industriales in the final who, after a ho hum season, seem to be peaking at the right time. They will need to, especially if they are going to find a way to keep free scoring Matanzas under control who qualified for the final with a crushing 13:2 defeat over last year’s reigning champions, Villa Clara, on April Fool’s Day.
March 31, 2014 (Game 3)
Industriales (7) vs. Pinar del Río (3) (Industriales lead 3:1 in the series)
A sardine packed in a can would have had far more space to move than a baseball fan at the Latinoamericano Stadium during the third game of the play-offs between Industriales Leones and Pinar del Río Vegueros. The ballpark opened its doors at 4:00 PM—three and a half hours before the game was scheduled to start—to let the wave of fans in. Things didn’t start very good for the home team as starter Noelvis Entenza was unable to throw a single strike and walked the first two men he faced. Entenza was replaced by left-handed Pedro Durán. With men in first and second bases and no outs, Pinar del Río was able to score only one run thanks to the outstanding performance of Durán—in his first play-off game.
Encouraged by their fans, Industriales tied the game 1-1 in the very first inning. Then, the team unleashed its offensive and scored three more while Durán was keeping a tight rein on Pinar del Río. Starter Julio Alfredo Martínez was followed by relief pitchers Erlis Casanova and Isbel Hernández, but to no avail. The Leones ended up scoring 7 runs to effectively wrap up the game early on despite a couple of runs late in the game for the Vagueros. Last night, Pedro Durán definitely won the hearts of Habaneros for his impressive performance. After the game, the streets of El Cerro district became flooded with a sea of laughter, singing and relief all painted blue.
Roll on Matanzas…los leones are back!