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LEBC 2024 Finals | Yera's gem allowed Matanzas to beat Artemisa 6-1 in Game 5, taking a 3-2 lead

Game 6 will be played this Tuesday at the Victoria de Girón stadium in Matanzas

Yoennis Yera pitched a gem in Game 5 to lead Matanzas to a 6-1 victory. (Photo by Abel Rojas)

Finals of the II Elite League of Cuban Baseball

Game 5: Matanzas 6, Artemisa 1

Matanzas leads the series 3-2

A gem of a pitching performance by Yoennis Yera for seven innings and an offensive effort by Eduardo Blanco, led Matanzas to a 6-1 victory over Artemisa this Sunday afternoon at Artemisa stadium in the always important Game 5.

Having won games 3 and 5 of the series, the Crocodiles return to Matanzas needing just one more win to win their first Elite League title. In the best-of-seven series, they are leading 3-2 heading into Game 6 this Tuesday.

In the second inning, both teams scored their first runs.

At the top of the second episode, three consecutive singles from Yordanis Samón, Erisbel Arruebarruena, and Eduardo Blanco put the score at 1-0. A walk to José Noroña loaded the bases with no outs, but starter Geonel Gutiérrez struck out Andrys Pérez and induced Ariel Sánchez to hit into a double play to end the threat.

It wouldn't take long for the answer to come. It would come courtesy of Frederich Cepeda, whose solo home run in the bottom of the inning opened the scoring. It would be the only thing the Matanzas starter would allow.

Gutiérrez, Yera's rival in this Game 5, couldn't repeat his performance from Game 1, when he threw six innings and surrendered three runs.

During the third episode, Matanzas would regain control. Yordan Manduley and Alexander Pozo, the latter one of Armando Ferrer's changes to rest Rusney Castillo, both hit singles. Yurisbel Gracial hit a sacrifice bunt to move runners to third and second. In response, Artemisa intentionally walked Samón, but Gutiérrez walked Arruebarrena to make it 2-1. Ultimately, the slightest advantage would have sufficed.

This would be the last batter the Hunters starter would face. Gutiérrez only lasted 2 1/3 innings, allowing six hits and two runs. He faced 14 batters in total, but disastrously 10 of them reached base, six for hits and four for walks. Considering the absence of his closer Liván Moinelo, Yulieski González's bullpen would have to endure too many innings so early in the game.

It was Jose I. Bermúdez who entered the game. As he struck out Blanco for the second out, third baseman Dayán García made a defensive error on the following batter. This extended the Crocodiles' lead to 3-1.

In the meantime, Yera grew stronger as the game progressed. Three men were on base and two were in scoring position in the third and fourth innings, but he was always able to escape the danger. With runners on first and second, he overpowered Cepeda with a fly ball to right in the third inning. In the next inning, Osbel Pacheco was retired by Yera on a grounder to shortstop after Jiménez doubled to right. The fifth was even better when he faced the minimum number of batters without allowing anyone to reach base.

After Jiménez's double in the fourth inning, Yera retired nine of the ten batters he faced. There was only one baserunner reaching base in the sixth inning, Dayán García, due to an error by Gracial at third base.

At the end of the day, the experienced left-hander delivered what his team needed in the always crucial Game 5. Seven innings of four hits, one earned run, and two walks characterized his performance. Despite not striking out in the game, he was effective enough in the beginning to dominate an Artemisa offense that missed the few opportunities it had. Artemisa's hitters went 0-for-2 with RISP against Yera, while they went 0-for-3 overall in such situations. As a result, Artemisa's offense was never able to control the match.

For the Crocodiles, Frank L. Medina pitched the final two innings. (Photo by Abel Rojas)

As Yera left the mound in the eighth inning, to maintain his team's lead Frank L. Medina pitched two scoreless innings. He allowed just two hits.

Crocodiles put the game out of reach in the seventh inning. Three consecutive singles by Gracial, Samón, and Arruebarrena made it 4-1 against Bermúdez. Blanco's two-RBI double rounded out the final score after reliever Israel Sánchez entered the game. It was Blanco's seventh RBI in the final. He led a team that until Game 5 had produced 23 RBIs against Artemisa's pitching.

Following Ariel Sánchez's arrival at the 2000 hits, both teams congratulated him. (Photo by Guillermo Rodríguez)

In the sixth inning, one of those historic moments was also experienced. Against reliever José I. Bermúdez, Ariel Sánchez collected his 2000th career hit in National Series history, the 27th player to accomplish such a feat. It was also the fifth such honor achieved by a player from the province of Matanzas, the third for the Sánchez family, and the first by a player who played in an Elite League.

After the game, Sánchez said to the press: “I spent almost a month to hit 8 hits. I was indeed a little anxious, but it is a goal I never thought I would reach, from the beginning when I started my career. My uncles - Wilfredo and Fernando, whom also reached 2000 career hits - and I discussed this feat. Playing these National Series requires a lot of preparation and sacrifice. My goal was to accomplish this in 18 seasons because few players had achieved it in that timeframe. In the end, I just want to thank God that I could do my job and I'm happy."

The Crocodiles lead the series 3-2, and the series moves to the Victoria de Girón stadium in Matanzas for Game 6 on Tuesday at 6:30 pm. Both teams have yet to announce their pitchers.



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