2009-2010 Cuban National League
The 49th Serie Nacional was won by the Industriales, 4 games to 3 over Villa Clara, in the finals. The Industriales were managed by Germán Mesa. They had gone 47-43 in the regular season - only Santiago de Cuba in 1998-1999 had ever won the title after a worse regular season.
The season kicked off on November 1, 2009. One big theme was financial problems, which caused the league to resort to a schedule loaded with day games to save on electric costs. Several offensive records fell during the season.
On November 3, Santiago de Cuba's Alexei Bell became the first Cuban leaguer to hit two grand slams in one inning; he set a new single-inning record with 8 RBI and tied the single-game record of 12 RBI. Only three prior Cuban leaguers had hit two grand slams in a game. Also that day, Pedro Luis Lazo became the first pitcher to 250 wins in Cuba.
Dainer Moreira of the Indios de Guantánamo tied the Cuban Serie Nacional record with six hits in a nine-inning game, on November 13. Danel Castro would later tie the mark as well. On December 25, Alexei Bell set a new record with four grand slams in a campaign. He would finish the year with a whopping seven.
Alfredo Despaigne almost took home a Triple Crown, winning the batting title at .404 and clubbing 31 homers, one shy of his record from 2008-2009, but his 97 RBI were 8 shy of league leader Yulieski Gourriel. Despaigne became the third repeat MVP in league history, following Wilfredo Sánchez (1969-1970) and Gourriel (2005-2006).
Seven of the eight teams in the East had winning records and all were within 21 games of first, while three of the eight western clubs were at least 30 games back.
In the playoffs, on March 3, Ciego de Ávila's Alien Mora retired the first 26 batters then went 2-2 on Guantánamo #9 hitter Leonelkis Escalante, but Escalante singled to ruin the perfect game bid. Guantánamo, a #2 seed, would be swept out of the playoffs.
The big first-round shocker was the fall of Sancti Spíritus, the league's top regular season team, 4 games to 1, to the Industriales, who had finished just over .500. Rudy Reyes delivered the big blow in game 5, a grand slam in the bottom of the 6th to end a shutout bid by Ismel Jiménez. The Industriales continued their upset run with a 4 games to 2 semifinal win over defending champion La Habana.
The finals began on March 23 at Estadio Augusto César Sandino with the Industriales facing Villa Clara before 25,000 fans. Villa Clara won the opener, 3-2, thanks to the hitting of 1B Ariel Borrero (2 R) and RF Andy Zamora (2 RBI). 19-year-old rookie Yasmani Hernández picked up the win while Armando Rivero took the loss in relief of Arley Sánchez. Yolexis Ulacia notched the save.
In game two a day later, 18,000 fans showed up to see the host Orangemen again shut down the Industriales. The day belonged to two players. Pitcher Robelio Carrillo went the distance with a two-hit shutout for Villa Clara. In the meantime, Odrisamer Despaigne had no luck against the Villa CLara offense. In the second, veteran C Ariel Pestano singled. One out later, 3B Leugim Barroso made an error. An out after that, Aledmis Díaz singled off the head of Industriales SS Rudy Reyes to score Pestano. CF Leonys Martín singled in another to make it 2-0. In the 4th, Pestano took Despaigne deep for the 4th homer of his postseason. The old-timer finished the day 3 for 3 with a walk, homer, 2 runs and a RBI. Despaigne was yanked in the fifth in favor of Yohandrys Portal, who pitched shutout ball for the final 3 2/3 IP as the Industriales fell 3-0.
With the series moving to the capital in Havana, the host Leones got their groove back in front of 39,381 fans for game 3. It was tied 2-2 after three innings, but the Industriales lit up the Villa Clara staff with six runs in the next two frames en route to a 12-6 victory. Stayler Hernández homered twice and Alexander Malleta drove home four. In addition to Hernández and Malleta, Yoandri Urgellés and Rudy Reyes also went deep. Luis Borroto was knocked out in the 4th and took the loss, while Misael Silverio gave up 4 runs in 1 1/3 IP. Armando Rivero got the win in relief despite 3 runs in four innings.
At Latinoamericano Stadium for game four on March 27, the Industriales put together another offensive show to even the series at two. DH Yohandry Urgellés went 3 for 3 with 3 RBI and 3B Leugim Barroso was 4 for 4 with 3 runs. Yasmani Hernández Romero got the start for the Orangemen but allowed hits to the first four batters and left without retiring a sole; the first reliever then gave up hits to two more batters as the Industriales would go up 5-0 in the first. By the time Industriales starter Arleys Sánchez toed the hill, the game was well in hand but he still did his share with one run in six as the Leones won 11-1.
A standing-room only crowd of 58,136 fans showed up at Latinoamericano Stadium for game five. They had plenty to cheer for early on, as DH Yohandry Urgellés hit a two-run homer off Freddy Asiel Álvarez in the first. Álvarez settled down to throw shutout ball for the next six innings. In the 8th, Villa Clara took a 3-2 lead when catcher Ariel Pestano doubled home LF Yuniet Flores and RF Andy Zamora. The Industriales tied it back up with an unearned run in the bottom of the inning. They then loaded the bases with two outs for LF Irait Chirino. Yasmani Hernández Romero relieved and retired Chirino to escape the jam. In the top of the 9th, first baseman Ariel Borrero drove home two runs with two outs to put Villa Clara ahead, then Pestano singled in Borrero for insurance and a 6-3 lead. In the bottom of the 9th, the Industriales rallied, putting two on with two out. With the potential tying run at the plate in Rudy Reyes, Yolexis Ulacia got Reyes to ground out to end the game. Yasmani Hernández Romero got the win and Ulacia the save while Frank Menéndez took the loss.
Back at Estadio Augusto César Sandino for game six, the Orangemen started strong at home. They pounded Industriales starter Ian Rendón for three runs in the first and were up 4-0 early. The wheels then began to come off for game two hero Robelio Carrillo in the 4th and 5th. The Industriales went up for good when 2B Raiko Olivares doubled home Stayler Hernández with the tying run and 1B Alexander Mayeta doubled home CF Carlos Tabares with the go-ahead run. Carrillo took the loss in a 8-5 decision. Andy Zamora was 3 for 4 in a losing effort. For the Industriales, after Rendón's early woes, the bullpen excelled with 5 2/3 innings of two-run ball on 103 pitches by Armando Rivero and 2 1/3 shutout innings for the save by closer Yohandri Portal.
Villa Clara blew its second straight chance to win it at home as the Industriales locked up the title in game 7, an exciting extra-inning affair. Villa Clara led 2-1 going into the 6th as Luis Borroto was outdueling Arleys Sánchez. Against reliever Yasmani Hernández Romero in the 6th, the Industriales took the lead on homers by cleanup hitter Alexander Malleta and SS Rudy Reyes. In the 7th, DH Yoandri Urgellés singled in a run off an ineffective Yolexis Ulacia and a miscue by Orangemen first sacker Ariel Borrero put his host team down 5-2. Villa Clara rallied in the 8th, though, as C Ariel Pestano and 3B Ramón Lunar singled and Sánchez got yanked. 2B Yandrys Canto then launched a 3-run homer off reliever Brian Ruiz to even the game. Going into extra innings, the Industriales struck back in the 10th. After the go-ahead run reached against Misael Silverio, a sac fly by 2B Raiko Olivares off Yuliet López made it 6-5 Industriales and CF Carlos Tabares added insurance with a RBI single. Joan Socarrás got the win after striking out 5 in 2 1/3 hitless innings of relief. In the final game of his career, Pestano was 2 for 5 with a double and a run. Reyes had 3 hits for the victors.
As a sign of how surprising the Industriales were, none of their players made the season's All-Star team or Gold Glove winners.
|Sancti Spíritus||63-27||--||Lourdes Gourriel|
|La Habana||49-40||13.5||Esteban Lombillo|
|Pinar del Rio||46-43-1||16.5||Alfonso Urquiola|
|Isla de la Juventud||26-64||37||Armando Johnson|
|Villa Clara||56-32-1||--||Eduardo Martín|
|Ciego de Ávila||49-40||7.5||Roger Machado|
|Santiago de Cuba||48-41||8.5||Antonio Pacheco|
|Las Tunas||47-43||10||Ermidelio Urrutia|
- La Habana 4, Cienfuegos 1
- Ciego de Ávila 4, Guantánamo 0
- Industriales 4, Sancti Spíritus 1
- Villa Clara 4, Santiago de Cuba 2
- Villa Clara 4, Ciego de Ávila 1
- Industriales 4, La Habana 2
- Industriales 4, Villa Clara 3
- Bold indicates either wooden bat record or aluminum bat record (1976-1977 to 1998-1999), Italics indicate Serie Nacional record
The Most Valuable Player (Jugadores más Valiosos) was Alfredo Despaigne of Granma. Yusef Amador of the Metropolitanos was the Series' Rookie of the Year (Novatos del Año). Alex Malleta was named Postseason MVP. Germán Mesa (Industriales) and Eduardo Martin (Villa Clara) were both named Manager of the Year, splitting the 22 votes evenly.
All-Stars were C Yosvani Alarcón (Las Tunas), 1B José Dariel Abreu (Cienfuegos), 2B Danel Castro (Las Tunas), SS Alex Guerrero (Las Tunas), 3B Yulieski Gourriel (Sancti Spiritus), OF Alexei Bell (Santiago de Cuba), OF Alfredo Despaigne (Granma), OF Frederich Cepeda (Sancti Spiritus), DH Rolando Meriño (Santiago de Cuba), UT Raúl González (Ciego de Ávila), RHP Vladimir García (Ciego de Ávila), LHP Yulieski González (La Habana) and RP Dunier Ibarra (Cienfuegos).
Gold Glove winners were C Eriel Sánchez (Sancti Spiritus), 1B Yunier Mendoza (Sancti Spiritus), 2B Mario Vega (Ciego de Avila), SS Michel González (La Habana), 3B Yulieski Gourriel (Sancti Spiritus), OF Jorge Johnson (Las Tunas), Denis Laza (La Habana) and Juan Miguel Soriano (Cienfuegos) and P Yoelkis Cruz (Las Tunas).