Caribbean Series 2017: Cuba rallies on Puerto Rico for 6-1 win; Saavedra chips in with homer

February 4, 2017

MLB file photo: Cuban hitter William Saavedra (28) takes a cut in the Caribbean Series in Mexico

By Lewis Rubman

Culiacán, Sinaloa, México– Through six and a half innings Cuba’s Sorrel horses from Granma had been dominating Puerto Rico’s Caguas Creoles, a noun that can refer to horses as well as people, which explains the team’s secondary nickname, la yegua, the mare. Nonetheless, the Puerto Ricans still had a chance to win; they were trailing by only 4-1. But when the final out of the seventh inning was recorded, we weren’t watching a horse race any more, just a rout of a team that no longer has a realistic chance of escaping elimination from the preliminary round of this year’s Caribbean Series.

Granma’s starting pitcher, Vladimir García, got off to a shaky start, walking Jorge Padilla and surrendering a single to Rey Navarro to open the game. But the Cuban right hander quickly overcame his nervousness and closed down the Creoles on two strike outs and a fore out at second on a grounder to short. With the exception of a run allowed in the top of the third on Jonhatan Morales’s single to center and Padilla’s infield hit that occured when no one covered first on a taper to first baseman William Saavedra, followed by a sacrifce bunt by Rey Navarro and Eddie Rosario’s sac fly to right was in command until relieved by Liván García at the start of Puerto Rico’s half of the seventh. García held Caguas in check the inning he pitched.

Then everything fell apart for Puerto Rico and into place for the Cubans. They scored only two runs, but the whole nature of the game had changed. Puerto Rico no longer needed two bloops and blast to achieve a tie; the team would have to fight just to get within striking distance.

Granma opened the bottom of the seventh with a walk from Will Oliver to veteran Alfrdo Despaigne. First baseman William Saavedra promptly made the score 6-1 with a home run to left center field. The Cuban bats continued to roar against Oliver even though Denis Laza’s getting hit by a pitch led to Carlos Benitez grounding into a 4-6-3 double play. Frank Morejon singled to center, and Yoenis Cespedes’s half brother doubled to right center. Fernando Cabrera came in to end the inning by getting Roel Santos to foul out, but the damage was done.

Garcia gotthe win for his five innings of five hit ball. In fact all of Granma’s pitchers gave up an average of one hit per inning pitched; Livan Moinelo pitched two innings and Miguel Lahero one.

Caguas starter Jarrett Leverette took the loss, giving up four runs, all of them earned, and six hits in his five innings of work. Oliver needed only two-thirds of an inning to surrender two earned runs. Frank Del Valle, Joel Pineiro, and Fernando Cabrera, the other pitchers for Caguas, were effective in their relief stints.

Saavedra went three for four for Granma, and three of his teammates had two hit games. Yunior Paumier, Saavedra, Benitez, and Cespedes hit doubles. Saavedra’s was the game’s only homer for either team. Although Ivan de Jesus, Jr. got two hits in three at bats Puerto Rico’s hitting was nothing to write home about, so I won’t.

Puerto Rico’s line score was 1, 8, and 1 with eight men left on base. Cuba’s was 6, 12, and 0. They stranded ten.

Tonight, Venezuela will take on Mexico in a battle of unbeaten teams.






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