2017-2018 Cuban National League
The 2017-2018 Cuban season used the same format as 2016-2017. The league saw two teams with less than glorious histories square off for the title. Granma had just won its first title the prior year, while Las Tunas had never won. Granma had upset Matanzas in the playoffs to get a shot to defend their championship.
In the first game of the finals, January 20, Las Tunas led 6-1 after 3 before winding up with a 6-5 win. Diego Granado got the win in relief of Yoalkis Cruz, while José Angel García notched the save. Lázaro Blanco, the prior season's MVP, was rocked for six runs in 2 1/3 IP before Yanier González and César García turned in scoreless relief. 2B Yunior Paumier drove in three for Las Tunas while C Yosvani Alarcón scored three. In a losing cause, 1B Guillermo Avilés homered twice and they got three hits apiece from CF Roel Santos, SS Yordan Manduley and 3B Raúl González. In game 2, Las Tunas scored six in the first, notching four runs off Ulfrido García (who retired none) and two more off Yosver Zulueta in 1/3 of an inning. Alejandro Meneses got the win with six shutout relief innings after replacing Yariel Rodríguez. 3B Yordanis Alarcón rapped four hits, his brother Yosvani got three, as did LF Jorge Yhonson. 1B Rafael Viñales drove in three.
Granma battled back on January 23 when the series moved to their home in Bayamo. Like Las Tunas in games 1 and 2, they burst out of the gate, scoring six in 1/3 of an inning off Vladimir Baños. 3B Raúl González hit a 3-run homer in the first and finished with 4 RBI while both CF Santos and 2B Carlos Benítez finished with three hits. Alaín Sánchez, pitching for the first time in 15 days, got the win despite 5 runs in 6 2/3 IP in a 10-6 victory. Granma tied the series a day later in the first game where both starters did a good job; Luis Gómez (Las Tunas) outdueled Blanco, 2-1, entering the bottom of the 8th, but CF Santos led off the inning with a hit-and-error play. Las Tunas turned to José Angel García, perhaps the greatest closer in Cuban annals, but he served up a game-tying hit to SS Manduley. Avilés was retired, then LF Alfredo Despaigne was intentionally walked. 2B Benítez drove in both runners to give Granma the win. In a losing cause, CF Yuniesky Larduet was 3 for 3 with two doubles; both leadoff man were 3-for-3 as Santos matched him. Leandro Martínez got the win in relief while Raidel Martínez struck out the last batter for the save.
Granma continued their hot run at home by winning Game 5 on the 25th, with a 11-5 pasting that included a 7-run third. Raúl González was 4 for 4 with two homers and five RBI while Yordanis Alarcón was 4 for 4 with two RBI for Las Tunas. Ulfrido García was not good (10 H, 5 R in 5 1/3 IP) but better than in game 2, to get the win; Raidel Martínez worked the final 2 2/3 for the save. Cruz, the regular-season win leader, took the loss. With the series returning to Las Tunas, the home team won for the 6th game in a row. Baños was much better than in game 3 but Granma led 2-0 after 5 1/2; Baños finished with 4 hits and 2 runs (1 earned) in 7 then José Angel García avenged his game 4 disappointment with two innings without a hit, run or walk. Leandro Martínez stifled the hosts through five but they tied it in the 6th and Raidel Martínez took over. In the bottom of the 9th, with one out, the 8th and 9th hitters came up with 3B Yordanis Alarcón and RF Andrés Quiala. Alarcón singled then Quiala singled as well for his third hit of the day. CF Larduet hit into a force at second; on the play, Alarcón overran third and was tagged out by Raúl González on the throw back in to seemingly force extra innings. On video replay, though, the call was reversed! A passed ball advanced Larduet while Alarcón held at third. With a base open, LF Yhonson was intentionally walked to bring up 41-year-old DH Danel Castro. He hit one out for a seeming grand slam - but again appearances were deceiving. As Castro was mobbed by teammates after touching first and never finished circling the bases, the play was ruled a game-winning single rather than homer as per rule 9.06.
The visitors took their first game in game 7, as Granma defended their title. They pecked away early. In the first, SS Manduley had a one-out single off Yariel Rodríguez and was grounded over by Avilés. LF Despaigne walked and 2B Benítez singled for the first of three hits, scoring Manduley. In the 5th, RF Yoelkis Céspedes and CF Santos singled; after a wild pitch, Manduley hit a sacrifice fly. In the 6th, Despaigne doubled, Benítez singled and DH Lázaro Cedeño was plunked. 3B Raúl González hit a sacrifice fly to make it 3-0. Granado and José Angel García pitched shutout relief the rest of the win for Las Tunas, but Granma had the lead they needed. Game 3 victor Alaín Sánchez was dominant, throwing eight shutout innings with three hits and no walks entering the 9th. He finally flagged in the bottom of the 9th; CF Larduet singled for his third hit (his teammates having combined for one to that point) and Yhonson tripled him in. Raidel Martínez was summoned to face the guy who took him deep a day earlier in the bottom of the 9th - DH Castro. This time, Castro only managed a shallow fly out. C Yosvani Alarcón singled in Yhonson to make it a game, 3-2; it looked like Las Tunas may rally for the second straight day in the 9th. Yosvani Alarcón then tried to steal but broke early and Raidel Martínez picked him off. That play proved crucial as SS Alexander Ayala and 2B Paumier followed with back-to-back singles to put the potential winning run aboard. After both had pinch-runners replace them, 1B Viñales flew out to end it.
|Team||Classification Phase||Secondary Phase||Manager|
|Las Tunas||30-15||29-16||Pablo Alberto Civil|
|Pinar del Rio||27-18||14-31||Pedro Luis Lazo|
|Ciego de Ávila||24-21||--||Roger Machado|
|Villa Clara||23-22||--||Vladimir Hernández Solas|
|Sancti Spíritus||23-22||--||José R. Delgado|
|Santiago de Cuba||21-24||--||Orestes Kindelán|
|Isla de la Juventud||20-25||--||Jose Luis Rodríguez Pantoja|
- Granma 4, Matanzas 1
- Las Tunas 4, Industriales 3
- Championship Series
- Granma 4, Las Tunas 3
- Bold indicates either wooden bat record or aluminum bat record (1976-1977 to 1998-1999), Italics indicate Serie Nacional record
Where two teams are listed, the player switched teams at the half
On October 22, 2017, the 2017-18 All-Star Game took place at Capitán San Luis Stadium in Pinar del Río, Pinar del Río. The Orientales beat the Occidentales, 6-4, in a game cut short in the 7th inning by rain. DH Lázaro Cedeño scored three runs for the Orientales and Yoalkis Cruz got the win with two shutout innings. Noelvis Entenza took the loss.
Las Tunas' Rafael Viñales won the Serie Nacional MVP after batting .373/.481/.592 with a league-high 80 RBI. His teammate Ángel Sánchez Pérez was named Serie Nacional Rookie of the Year after posting a 6-4, 3.16 record.
Postseason All-Stars were C Yosvany Alarcón (Las Tunas), 1B Rafael Viñales (Las Tunas), 2B Yunior Paumier (Holguín/Las Tunas), SS Yordan Manduley (Holguín/Artemisa), 3B Lázaro Hernández (Artemisa), OF Frederich Cepeda (Sancti Spíritus/Pinar del Río), OF Jorge Jhonson (Las Tunas), OF Norel González (Villa Clara), UT Michael González (Mayabeque) and DH Lázaro Cedeño (Granma). Roy Hernández (Matanzas) was named the top right-handed pitcher, Yoannis Yera (Matanzas) the top left-handed pitcher and José Angel García (Artemisa) the top closer.
Gold Glove winners were C Olber Peña (Pinar del Río), 1B Guillermo Avilés (Granma), 2B Carlos Benítez (Granma), SS Jorge Alomá (Artemisa), 3B Osvaldo Abreu (Granma), LF Jorge Jhonson (Las Tunas), CF Joasán Guillén (Industriales), RF Ariel Sánchez (Matanzas) and P Freddy Asiel Álvarez (Industriales/Villa Clara).