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Playoffs I Elite League: Agricultores and its unstoppable path in search of the throne


There were no surprises at all. With Agricultores convincingly winning their first two games at the Mártires de Barbados stadium, only one path to the throne was left to be discussed.



So, every inning of Game 3 last Sunday, and Game 4 this Monday, at the Capitán San Luis stadium, in Pinar del Ro, led to the expected conclusion: Agricultores will play in the final!


The Tabacaleros could not turn history around: after losing Game 4, 5-4 on Monday afternoon, the Agricultores achieved a 4-0 sweep in the semifinals.


The point is that the most dominant teams are usually capable of scoring first, holding leads, or coming from behind. They become even more difficult to beat as they gain confidence.


That was the history of the Agricultores-Tabacaleros series.


It was inevitable: Agricultores won again on Monday, scoring two runs in the second inning, taking advantage of a passed ball from catcher Jorge Y. Rojas and an RBI grounder from Andrés de la Cruz.


The second inning saw Tabacaleros tie the game, taking advantage of Yunier Castillo's difficulties with his command. With two runners on base - Juan C. Arencibia for walk and Dainier Gálvez hit by a pitch - third baseman Dayán García hit a single to left field. With his speedy legs and explosiveness, Arencibia put pressure on the defense and turned towards home plate, contributing to an error by outfielder Rafael Viñales. In the play, Gálvez also made a great run and scored from first base, while Dayán reached third.


It was the first unearned run allowed by Agricultores pitching in these playoffs, demonstrating the team's efficiency.


However, another risky attempt by Tabacaleros at the bases was neutralized by Agricultores' defense. Cleanup hitter Leo Urgellés grounded out to third baseman Yordanis Alarcón, who fired to first base. Then, without blinking, first baseman Guillermo Avilés took out Dayán García with a precise throw to the plate.


It was a saving double play and, still, the game was tied!


Our focus when analyzing Agricultores team is usually on their offense, but there is no doubt those led by legendary manager Carlos Martí Santos have bold and experienced fielders.


Yasmani Viera started the following inning with infield hit. How would things have turned out? It's impossible to predict baseball, since each situation is unique: but I've always believed in cues when it comes to reading games. Moreover, if Dayán had stayed at third base, Tabacaleros would have scored one more run with Viera's single if he had stayed there.


However, with just 2.3 runs scored and 7.8 allowed per game, no team has been able to achieve success against Agricultores in this I Elite League.


It didn't take long for the Agricultores' rebellion to begin. They opened the fifth inning by expelling Jonathan Carbó, the right-handed Tabacaleros starter, from the game. Activating one of his top relievers, Frank Luis Medina, was a decisive move by Tabacaleros manager, Alexander Urquiola.


With runners on first and second, Osvaldo Abreu hit a line drive to first baseman Urgellés for the first out, but Medina couldn't evade the Agricultores' swings: Yordanis Alarcón hit a two-run double to rightfield, and, after an intentional walk to his brother Yosvany, Rafael Viñales produced another RBI single.


A wild pitch from Medina opened the plate to Agricultores' fifth run in the top of the fifth, which, in the end, ended up being the decisive one. Tabacaleros continued to struggle in their best offensive game of this semifinal, until a RBI double by Gálvez in the seventh and a RBI single by Yasser González in the eighth inning, brought them within one run, 5-4.


However, it was too late.


Throughout the semifinal, Tabacaleros left on base 30 of the 35 runners who reached scoring position. Yes, they drove just 14.2% of the runners. But also, we could add to that their drop in OBP:


- Tabacaleros vs. Agricultores pitchers in 10 regular-season games: .372 OBP - Tabacaleros vs. Agricultores pitchers this postseason: .301 OBP


So, the slump hasn't been precisely for not hitting the ball: Tabacaleros struck out just 2.3 times per nine innings. They were putting the ball in play in 84.8% of their home plate appearances. So what was the key to his opponents? They barely got any hard-hitting connections.


Farmer pitchers are probably the easiest to hit, mostly due to the fact that they throw into the strike zone so often.


Perhaps we could blame the offense, but overall, Tabacaleros was far from even its best against Agricultores. The offense never responded, it's true. But none of the starting pitchers sent to the mound by manager Alexander Urquiola could record a quality start or six innings of work.


The bullpen, one of Tabacaleros' strengths, failed to sustain dominant performances: they had a terrible 6.62 ERA, with a deficient 1.75 WHIP and 42.8% extra bases allowed.


Without getting a lead on the scoreboard, none of the seven Tabacaleros relievers used in the series —who combined for 12 relief games— got to defend a team's lead.


With so much ineffectiveness in the main aspects of the game, it was impossible for Tabacaleros to beat Agricultores, a team that, in addition to leading the league during the regular season, displayed a great core of players accustomed to facing games under pressure.


And, in playoffs, the “experience” of having been champions is also usually an added value that can help a team make a difference.


(Photo: Agricultores Team/Luis Carlos Palacios Leyva)

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