The 60th Cuban National Series of baseball wrapped up on Sunday afternoon. The Granma Alazanes 2021 Champions of Cuban baseball claimed their third title in five seasons. Granma seized a 3-1 series lead. After a harrowing Game five loss and facing a late 5-1 Game six deficit, Game seven looked inevitable.
Guillermo Garcia took home MVP honours. The youngster was named one of the 34 players that would have been eligible to sign with MLB. The 2018 agreement was later struck down by the United States government. He has struggled to live up to the expectations since. Garcia broke through with two home runs and six RBI in Game 4 and the game winning walk off RBI in Game six.
The Alazanes surprised many in claiming the second seed entering the playoffs. Many felt that age, defections and the unavailability of players in Pro leagues had caused their championship window to close. Similarly their opponents Matanzas missed many players during the regular season due to their pro commitments. They welcomed many of these players back for the playoffs. The Cocodrilos were also considered to have the deeper pitching staff overall.
Surprising no one, Lazaro Blanco was impressive in two starts. He finished the playoffs at a perfect 5-0. Blanco came just short of setting the Cuban National Series record for most wins with no losses in a playoff. He also fell just short of the most wins in a single playoff. Blanco is likely happier to have gained his third championship if not an individual record.
Leandro Martinez was effective as the number two starter and held opponents including Matanzas at bay in each start. Martinez held the Cocodrilos scoreless through five innings in game six. He mixed speeds and location effectively. This despite barely touching 85 miles per hour. Martinez ran into trouble in the sixth. He left the game tied before the bullpen promptly surrendered four more runs.
Eduardo Blanco cleared the bases with a triple, making Game Seven on Monday seem inevitable. Blanco had an impressive playoff in his own rite. He drove in the single run in a semi-final win, the only 1-0 game of the playoffs and had the defensive play of the playoffs if not the entire playoffs in that series.
Congrats to the Granma Alazanes 2021 Champions of Cuban Baseball. They battled through tough conditions all season. The 60th Cuban National Series represented the longest in calendar length.
The season began on September 12th and wrapped up on April 4th due to Covid-19 complications. The Alazanes themselves saw a month layoff in between the quarter final and semi-final. They had to deal with another multi-week delay once they secured their berth in the finals. They didn’t allow any rust to set in and rose to the occasion when called upon and are truly deserving of the title. Follow cubadugout for year round coverage of Cuba’s top baseball league.