CUBA – Rest can be overrated. The Villa Clara Orangemen managed just fine in Game 1 of the East Semifinals to beat 8-0 the Ciego de Avila Tigers, who had a week off. Reliever Yasmani Hernández pitched brilliantly into the eighth inning, Ariel Borrero made Ciego de Avila pay with a homer and three RBIs, and Andy Zamora had two more RBIs to help Villa Clara cruise past the ragged Tigers 8-0 in the East Semifinals opener Monday afternoon.
In reality nobody was expecting Villa Clara to win easily especially because Ciego de Avila was the best team of the 48 National Series with a franchise record of 64 wins during the regular season and 4 more in the Quarterfinals against the Holguín Dogs. However, the score simply showed that there was only one team on the field. With the Tigers hosting their first Semifinals game in history, fans showed up hoping to see lefty Maikel Folch buzz through a Orangemen team that past the Santiago de Cuba Wasps in a seven-game Quarterfinals series that had wrapped up less than 72 hours earlier.
But instead, Hernández easily outpitched Folch in Game 1 with his relief of 4 1/3 scoreless innings, taking the crowd out of it early and ending Ciego’s four-game postseason winning streak.
The top of the fifth was a key moment for the Orangemen. Folch was recovering for an initial bad first episode –Leonys Martín and Andy Zamora singled to right and a rolling out of Ariel Borrero to second were enough for the first run of the game -, then he walked shortstop Aledmis Díaz to start the fifth and with one out – strikeout to Zamora – and Villa Clara ahead 1-0, the lefthander allowed line drive over the right-field fence off Ariel Borrero for a 3-0 lead.
The three-run cushion was more than enough for Hernández who retired 12 of the 14 batters faced during his work before Yorelvis Charles eight-inning single. The right-hander was lifted after he walked Yoelvis Fiss on the same inning. He pitched 4 1/3 allowing three hits, not runs, striking out two with two walks to earn the win.
Ciego, which completed a four-game sweep of Holguín in the East Quarterfinals last Tuesday, was supposed to have the edge on the mound in Game 1. Folch was one of the best left-handed pitchers of the 2008-2009 season, while Villa Clara starter Alaín Sánchez went 6-2 with a 3.16 ERA in only 9 regular-season starts. In fact, the Orangemen only turned to him in the opener because his ace, Freddy Asiel Alvarez, was not ready to go.
But Sánchez at least pitched like a poised veteran during the first three innings of the game allowing not runs and preserving the 1-0 score. Sánchez permitted only four hits and walked one.
Ciego de Avila missed a great opportunity in the bottom of the fourth inning. On that episode Sánchez allowed Yorelvis Charles leadoff single to center and Yoelvis Fiss double to left to put runners on third and second and not out. Manager Eduardo Martín pulled his starter bringing reliever Robelio Carrillo who walked Issac Martínez to load the bases.
In that situation Martín brought Yasmani Hernández who got the first out of the inning when Charles was called out trying to score on a wild pitch after Pestano made a perfect throw to Hernández covering the plate. It was a huge Ciego de Avila’s mistake.
After that play and when Hernández retired Raúl González and Yorbis Borroto to end the inning, The Tigers were not the same team anymore. In the top of the sixth Villa Clara scored three times against Folch sending him to the dugout after giving up six runs – five earned – and seven hits.
Yander Guevara relieved Folch walking Aledmis Díaz and allowing Andy Zamora hit to complete a 6-0 advantage.
Two more runs scored Villa Clara in the ninth putting the final 8-0 score.
Closer Yolexis Ulacia ended the game pitching 1 2/3 innings and not allowing runs.
Maikel Folch was charged with the loss.
Game 2 is tonight at 8:00 pm with Valeri García pitching for Ciego de Avila against Freddy Asiel Alvarez or Yuliet López for Villa Clara.
Written by Ray Otero at baseballdecuba.com