Abreu Equals Cuba’s Single-Season Home Run Record

All season long most eyes have been focused squarely on Granma’s Alfredo Despaigne and his quest to catch and surpass the single-season home run mark of 33 established last spring by José Dariel Abreu (Cienfuegos) and Yoennis Céspedes (Granma, now with the Oakland Athletics in the North American major leagues). A little more than two weeks ago the Granma Stallion (“The Horse of the Horses” as he is known around the island) accomplished his goal in most dramatic fashion by banging out numbers 34 and 35 in Havana’s Latin American Stadium. The first record-breaking smash was especially spectacular since it came on a pitch that actually severed Despaigne’s bat into separate pieces; that blow – struck off Industriales southpaw Ian Rendón – still managed to travel well in excess of 400 feet on its flight into the left-center-field bleachers.

Player of the Day: Jose Dariel Abreu ties the Cuban League single-season home run record with blast number 35.

By putting some distance between himself and Abreu earlier in the month, Despaigne seemed to have locked up both the new home run record and also the league lead in runs batted in. First place finishes in both those slugging departments seemed to spell another near-miss for José Dariel who has now flirted with a possible first-ever Triple Crown for two consecutive seasons. Last year’s batting and home run champ, Abreu lost out in the RBI department by the narrowest of possible margins to Céspedes (with whom he shared the home run crown). This year Abreu enjoys a safe margin as repeat winner of the batting title (now owning a .391 average) and has trailed only Despaigne in the other two heavyweight offensive departments.

But the Fat Lady had not yet sung (as the saying goes) and for the second time in a month Abreu has charged from the rear to again grab at least a share of the spotlight. Last night (April 18) in Cinco de Septiembre Stadium the bulky Cienfuegos first sacker smacked out long ball number 35 (in the sixth inning off Santiago right-hander Dany Betancourt) to take back a share of the home run record he had surrendered to Despaigne on April 3. It was Abreu’s third homer in as many games and his sixth since Despaigne’s own record thirty-fifth. And the blow also narrowed the gap to a mere five in the RBI department.

Both sluggers now have three games remaining as the National Series season heads into its final weekend. Cienfuegos entertains Ciego de Avila in a three-game set at home and will likely face league ERA leader Vladimir García in one of those matches. Granma faces a more crucial series on the road in Nueva Gerona versus Isla de la Juventud (whose pitching staff boasts new single-season Saves record holder Danni Aguilera). The Stallions must make up a one-game difference in their tussle with Santiago de Cuba for the final Oriental League post-season slot. Abreu seems to have all the momentum at the moment and is in fact currently slugging homers with greater frequency on the season than Despaigne. Abreu as whacked a round-tripper every 7.83 times at bat; Despaigne is slightly less impressive with one every 9.51 official trips to the plate. If Abreu has the momentum, it could also be said that Despaigne is overdue and also owns a history of saving his grandest performances for the biggest stages. It should be a thrilling race to the wire.

Results of Wednesday, April 18, 2012

(Boldface team is home club)

Industriales 2, Pinar del Río 0

Mayabeque 4, Isla de la Juventud 3

Artemisa 7, Metropolitanos 2

Matanzas 12, Guantánamo 2

Villa Clara 9, Holguín 4

Ciego de Avila 9, Las Tunas 2

Granma 6, Sancti Spíritus 5

Santiago de Cuba 9, Cienfuegos 6

Sancti Spíritus 14, Granma 4 (KO 8) (late game Tuesday night)

Idle: Camagüey

League Standings (April 19, 2012)

Boldface teams have clinched playoff appearance

Occidental League

Team Games Wins Losses Pct. Margin
Matanzas 93 55 38 .591
Industriales 93 53 40 .570 2.0
Cienfuegos 93 52 41 .559 3.0
Sancti Spíritus 92 48 44 .522 6.5
Pinar del   Río 96 47 49 .490 9.5
Isla de   la Juventud 93 39 54 .419 16.0
Artemisa 93 36 57 .387 19.0
Metropolitanos 93 36 57 .387 19.0
Mayabeque 93 31 62 .333 24.0

Oriental League

Team Games Wins Losses Pct. Margin
Villa Clara 93 56 37 .602
Las Tunas 92 53 39 .576 2.5
Ciego de   Avila 93 53 40 .570 3.0
Santiago   de Cuba 93 52 41 .554 4.0
Granma 93 51 42 .559 5.0
Guantánamo 91 42 49 .462 13.0
Camagüey 93 43 50 .462 13.0
Holguín 93 43 50 .462 13.0

Individual Batting Leaders

Ave: José Dariel Abreu (Cienfuegos) .391

Hits: Yordanis Samón (Granma) 126

Hits: Yordan Manduley (Hulguín) 126

Runs: Guillermo Heredia (Matanzas) 86

HR: José Dariel Abreu (Cienfuegos) 35 (new league record)

HR: Alfredo Despaigne (Granma) 35 (new league record)

RBI: Alfredo Despaigne (Granma) 101

Slugging: José Dariel Abreu (Cienfuegos) .836

Individual Pitching Leaders

Wins: Ismel Jiménez (Sancti Spíritus) 17

ERA: Vladimir García (Ciego de Avila) 1.78

Complete Games: Vladimir García (Ciego de Avila) 11

Saves: Danni Aguilera (Isla de la Juventud) 27

Shutouts: Yosvani Torres (Pinar del Río) 5

Ks: Odrisamer Despaigne (Industriales) 128

Innings: Ismel Jiménez (Sancti Spíritus) 185.0

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