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2023 Cuban Finals| Lessons from Game 4: It was a matter of time… Leñadores CNS Champions!

End of story: The Leñadores are the new champions of Cuban Baseball! By Yirsandy Rodríguez “This ends here!” , chanted from the first inning the fans from Las Tunas who took over the stands this Friday at the Latinoamericano stadium with total conviction that they would live a day to remember in Cuban baseball. And so it was: exactly 101 minutes later, the Las Tunas Lumberjacks were crowned champions of the 62nd National Series of Cuban baseball! A 6-1 victory in Game 4 completed the series sweep for the Lumberjacks, who won their second championship and became the seventh team to finish undefeated with a 4-0 record. Furthermore, Abeisy Pantoja also joins the 13 managers who have made their debut in Cuban baseball winning the national title. A consistency that was unmatched in the first third of this campaign was demonstrated by Las Tunas: With a 45-29 record, they led the regular season with a .608 winning percentage. In the quarterfinals, they swept Tigres de Ciego de Ávila 4-0. They avenged their previous three consecutive eliminations against the Matanzas Crocodiles by beating them 4-2. Finally, they swept the Lions 4-0, completing a historic sweep. This postseason, they won 12 out of 14 games! The final result for this year?: A 57-31 record in 88 games! , resulting in an impressive win percentage of 65%. Although the Industriales suffered the losses of Yasmany Tomás and Ariel Hechevarría (in Game 1), the superiority of the Leñadores was impressive: they had a devastating offense - a challenge to the poor quality of Teammate balls -, a brilliant defense, and an exceptionally effective pitching staff. During this postseason, the team led by Abeisy Pantoja generally needed just seven arms to neutralize each of their rivals, but there were four indisputable aces: Keniel Ferráz, the official MVP of the Lumberjacks in this postseason, set a national record in the playoffs with a 6-0 record. In the Final, he secured two victories while posting an ERA of 0.66 and a WHIP of 0.88. In the rotation, Alejandro Meneses finished 3-0 in five starts.In addition, he posted a pinpoint 0.66 ERA and a 0.77 WHIP in 27 1/3 innings. In playoff history, he has the third best WHIP of any pitcher with at least 25 innings pitched! -Rodolfo Díaz, who, despite having a 2-2 record (he took the team's two losses), threw 27 23 innings and posted a 1.30 ERA with 10 strikeouts and a single walk. In the post-season, Alberto Pablo Civil equaled the record for saves (4) with his former teammate Yoalkis Cruz (2019), Yolexis Ulacia (Villa Clara, 2010) , and José Angel García (La Habana, 2005) Despite their lethal results against the Industriales, we cannot ignore the audacious move Pantoja and his coaches made, which mapped out every strategy with meticulous detail: Meneses: 1-1 (won Game 4 with five scoreless innings), 0.96 ERA in 9 1/3 innings, 0.96 WHIP, and .181 BA/opponents. Ferráz: 2-0, 0.00 ERA in 8.0 innings, 0.96 WHIP, and .143 batting average against his opponents Díaz: 1-0, 1.08 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, and .241 batting average against his opponents Civil: One save, 0.00 ERA, 0.38 WHIP, and .111 batting average against opponents In this Final, the Lumberjacks' Fantastic Four recorded 53% of the strikeouts and 76% of the team's innings, allowing just .182 batting average, a 0.67 ERA and a walk per 22 batters faced. Lions' manes were literally stripped away! Despite their inexperience, the Blues pitching staff set a new postseason record with 92 walks, and allowed the second highest number of hits (183), behind the Ciego de Ávila staff that allowed 186 hits during the 50th National Series. Among the 13 pitchers for the Industriales, eight had their first postseason experience with some prominence, as was the case with Silvano Hechevarría, Reemberto Barreto, Rafael Orlando Perdomo, Raymond Figueredo and Jonathan Cruz, who had to assume rotational duties. In addition to the collective slump of Industriales, with a lineup that hit just .194/.255/.256, received twice as many strikeouts (15) as they scored, each game in this Final drifted into déjà vu itself: a flash of dominance initially, but then fading away as the Woodcutters adjusted their equipment. Do you recall the following?: Game 1: The 20-year-old rookie from Holguín, Silvano Hechevarría, who is from Las Tunas, battled until the fifth inning of the game. Leones' bullpen attempted to keep the tie at 2-2, but the Lumberjacks scored three runs in the seventh inning to break the tie. Game 2: A similar outcome was achieved. The Lumberjacks struck down the bullpen again with another three-run burst in the seventh inning after Raymond Figueredo pitched six dominant innings, leading 3-1. Game 3: Jonathan Cruz, the Leones starter who had achieved his first success in the National Series precisely against Las Tunas during the regular season, recorded seven consecutive outs in Game 3. It is true that some of the numbers that he put during his outing were a bit pessimistic to Lions fans: those 34 pitches by Cruz — a towering 4.8 average against each batter! But a 7-0 record after putting out their first seven opponents did not bode well for the Leñadores. So it was: The Lumberjacks responded with a rebellion that resulted in six runs in the third inning! It was no different in Game 4 . The Lumberjacks would have opened the scoring during the opening inning had Barreto found Yunior Otero on base - he was caught stealing at second - after Castro hit his double. The tribulations began when Barreto challenged the Las Tunas lineup for the second time in the third inning. Yet, despite three walks and a single from Yosvany Alarcón to shortstop, Barreto struck out Roberto Baldoquín and got away with the bases loaded. In fact, the sigh lasted only two more batters, as Barreto gave away a couple of walks at the beginning of the fourth inning and his outing ended there. As soon as the Lumberjacks scored in the third inning, they did so in each inning through the sixth, and the game would not have ended in a rout had they not left nine runners on base. As a matter of fact, a ground ball by Héctor Castillo to second at the start of the fourth would have been enough to start the Lumberjacks' climb to the top this Friday. Why is this so? In addition to the poor pitching, the Lions' ineffective hitting ended many of their chances: they got their first hit with one out in the fourth against Meneses, but Yosvany Peñalver and Yasiel Santoya couldn't bring Jorge Alomá home. After a meeting in front of the dugout before the seventh inning began, the only moment that at least fuelled the Blues' fans was Yasiel Santoya's leadoff home run and Walter Abreu and Juan Carlos Torriente's doubles. Despite that, everything remained a threat. The second time Industriales had three hits in a row, it ended in a tie: Moments later, Dayron Blanco grounded into a double play, and Ariel Hechevarría gave up a fly out to right. * The previous time was in Game 1 in the fifth inning: a triple by Oscar Valdés, followed by singles by Jorge Enrique Alomá and Roberto Acevedo. Five of the last six Blues batters left without reaching first base, five put out by Rodolfo Díaz, and the 27th by Alberto Pablo Civil, who finished the game. Without competent offense and a staff that posted a negative walk conceived rate (92) for a postseason against a team that hit .336/.420/.431 and averaged 6.2 runs scored in the Finals, there's no way you can win.In Game 4, every Las Tunas starting batter got at least one hit, bringing the team's average to 10.7 hits and .385 OBP. In contrast, the Industriales couldn't counteract that rhythm, seeing 42% (15) of their 36 innings retired in line, and 78% (28) without the first batter reaching base. This time around, the Lumberjacks weren't strong at slugging (they hit just .369) or scoring runs with home runs. The collective success of the campaign was the result of teamwork, cohesion and each player fulfilling their role at the right time. From the team's leadoff, Héctor Castillo, who led the hitters with a .404 average in the regular season, to Yunior Otero (registered .588 OBP in the Final), they forged a team that was almost invincible. It's an amazing result for the Lions led by Guillermo Carmona, especially because of the team's collective union, which allowed them to overcome a lot of hurdles. They got there from last place, and won two series in a maximum of seven games. It's the first time the team has done this in the playoffs in 11 years. So, even before Yordanis Alarcón's two-run homer off Juan Xavier Peñalver, which rounded out the final score to 6-1 in the top of the ninth, it was already a matter of time: just like 2018. Once again, the team from Las Tunas beat Industriales, but this time it was an even more special victory: "without player reinforcements," as Danel Castro - Hit king of Cuban Baseball -, and with an unforgettable sweep. Congratulations champions! Note: In 2023, the two teams that played in the 2023 Cuban Finals were Los Leones (Azules) de Industriales - The Industriales Blue Lions - and Los Leñadores de Las Tunas - The Las Tunas Lumberjacks or Woodcutters. (Photos: Las Tunas Newspaper)

End of story: The Leñadores are the new champions of Cuban Baseball!

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