14ymedio, Ernesto Santana, Havana, 13 December 2018 — Endless games. Too many mistakes. Colossal number of runs. Countless walks, intentional or not. Frequent indiscipline of hitters, pitchers and managers. Very passive umpires and authorities. So many incredibly bad plays. Lousy pitching and offense so disproportionate that anybody can hit over .300.
This is the scenario of the 58th National Baseball Series in its second stage, but the public, for whatever reasons, is attending more than in other seasons. And despite everything, interest does not wane. The standings had blown up, then been put back together and now seem to split again at the ends.
Today, the Leñadores (Lumberjacks) (32-19) are the leaders to this point and Holguín (20-31) sinks to the bottom. Las Tunas, one point from passing, seems assured of qualifying, perhaps even for first place of the stage, while Villa Clara and Sancti Spíritus must maintain their battle for second and third, while the cats of Ciego and La Havana will fight for the fourth ticket.
Although until a few weeks ago a Leñadores vs. Tigres (Tigers) final was foreseen, at this point no one is sure who will be the second contender, but nobody doubts who will be first, because Las Tunas has been the strongest squad in the tournament and has become the main favorite for the title, which would be the first in their history.
Not that they needed to, but with winning fury, the Tuneros (Las Tunas) just swept Holguín coming from behind three times despite the combativeness of the Cachorros (Cubs). However, there were three games with an alarming amount of errors and runs.
In second place, tied with 27 victories and 24 losses, reside the Azucareros (Sugar Makers) and Gallos (Roosters). Yes Eduardo Paret’s group has had a good tournament, but they have surprised sometimes with their lack of forcefulness and they leave doubts about how much they will shine in the playoffs. His rising star, César Prieto, perhaps tired, is going through an incredible slump of fifteen days.
With Sancti Spíritus, however, nobody feels cheated. On the contrary. Although they just lost the subseries against their neighbors from Villa Clara, they are not expected to miss the playoffs and, to the pride of José Raúl Delgado, they continue to play well whether ahead or behind.
In fourth place, Ciego de Ávila (24-27) has surprised a lot in this phase, because, although they have quality names, in the offense as well as in the defense and pitching, they are playing below expectations and have kept themselves in the playoff race so far due to the bad streaks of Lions and Cubs.
Can the Blues be in the semifinals? It’s a great question. Rey Vicente Anglada, at first, warned that he was not a magician but managed to take his boys to the second phase, but it will not be easy for Industriales (23-28), with so many injured and in bad form, so poor in pitching and in defense, so inconsistent on offense.
Now no one expects Holguin (20-31) to accomplish the feat. They did in the first stage, but the new format relegated them to last and they started the second phase with very little force. Lately they have fought like Rottweilers and have beaten anyone, but, while they were the ones that played the best during the last 10 clashes, Las Tunas beat them. Whatever happens, no fan will forget the unexpected bravery of Holguin in the 58th Series.
Undoubtedly, with a view to what is coming, the Leñadores are the team that looks to be in best shape, and as the fans say, “without Danel there is no championship”, referring to the legendary player, the “Panther of Manatí”, opportunistic like nobody else although already past forty, without bad slumps like the present one of the also veteran Frederich Cepeda.
This Thursday begins the first of the last three subseries. In the Latin American Stadium, the Lions await the Roosters; in the Mella, the Lumberjacks the Leopards; and, in the Calixto García, the Bloodhounds the Tigers.
Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria
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