Cuba’s version of the MLB World Series kicks off tonight (April 16) in the eastern port city of Santiago de Cuba, with the defending champion Santiago Avispas (Wasps) seeking their second consecutive crown and third in four years under manager (and former national team star) Antonio Pacheco. The opposition will be provided by eastern section champion Pinar del Rio in a seven game set stretching through next Thursday (if it lasts the full duration). The full playoff schedule is as follows:
April 16 (Wednesday 8:00 pm EST) at Santiago (Guillermon Moncada Stadium)
April 17 (Thursday 8:00 pm EST) at Santiago (Guillermon Moncada Stadium)
April 20 (Sunday 2:00 pm EST) at Pinar del Rio (Captain San Luis Stadium)
April 21 (Monday 8:00 pm EST) at Pinar del Rio (Captain San Luis Stadium)
April 22 (Tuesday 8:00 pm EST) at Pinar del Rio (Captain San Luis Stadium)
April 24 (Thursday 8:00 pm EST) at Santiago (Guillermon Moncada Stadium)
April 25 (Friday 8:00 pm EST) at Santiago (Guillermon Moncada Stadium)
Tonight’s opening action in Guillermon Moncada (above) will feature a pair of starting righties: Santiago’s Norge Vera (9-2, 2.89) and Pinar’s Yosvani Torres (8-2, 3.29). The veteran Vera (at 145-54) owns the second-best career won-lost mark in Cuban League annals. The defending champions, who dominated the league offensively all season long, seem the overwhelming favorites over a Pinar club that won its division yet played only .500 baseball (45-45) throughout the regular campaign. But the gritty Pinar team has been the true surprise of the post-season so far with its upsets of both Industriales and Sancti Spiritus in the early rounds; certainly the Pinarenos can not be counted out in any short series–especially since they boast the pitching of national team stars Pedro Lazo and Yunieski Maya and the hefty bat of catcher Yosvani Peraza (29 homers).
All the playoff action can be followed on radio (Radio Rebelde) or television (Cubavision International) via links provided on our Cuban League website at www.baseballdecuba.com. If you have never experienced the excitement and color of a Cuban League game it might be well worth having a look. Full commentary on the championship series will also be provided starting tonight with my own columns (English) and those of webmaster Ray Otero (Spanish)–all available on the same www.baseballdecuba.com website.