2020-2021 Cuban National League
The 2020-2021 Cuban Serie Nacional was an unusual one in that no attendance was permitted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As with other leagues during the pandemic, occasionally players were sidelined due to positive tests. There were no spectators permitted and all postseason games were in a "bubble" format like the 2019-2020 NBA playoffs. The league switched formats, scrapping their recent two-half system where half the teams qualify for the second half with the other players being redistributed.
With the playoffs being disrupted by COVID-19, the first semifinal finished before one of the other quarterfinals had ended. In the finals, Granma (#2 in the regular season) met defending champion Matanzas (#3 in the regular season). 3B Yadil Mujica began the finals with a one-out homer in the top of the first off Lázaro Blanco but Granma tied it when CF Roel Santos singled off Yoanni Yera, stole, advanced on a grounder and scored on a fly from LF Raico Santos. In the bottom of the 5th, RF Alexquemer Sánchez doubled off Yera (who fanned 11 in a complete game), Roel Santos walked and 3B Osvaldo Abreu hit the game-winning, two-run triple. Blanco allowed a run in the 6th when 2B Aníbal Medina homered but gave up just four hits and two runs in eight innings in the win. Carlos Santiesteban saved it.
The Alazanes also won game 2, again by one run. CF Roel Santos again started things off for the victors, drawing a walk from Noelvis Entenza, advancing on a walk and wild pitch and scoring on a single by 1B Guillermo Avilés. Granma padded their lead in the 2nd. DH Guillermo García walked, then SS Erisbel Arruebaruena (a former major leaguer) erred on a grounder by SS Yulián Milán. Sánchez bunted the runners over and CF Roel Santos hit a two-run ground-run double for a 3-0 lead. Meanwhile, Leandro Martínez had blanked Matanzas for the first four innings. RF Yadir Dreke drew a one-out walk and 1B Yariel Duque singled to break up the no-hitter. LF Ariel Sánchez hit a three-run homer to tie it, the first of his three hits that game. Matanzas went ahead an inning later against Juan Pérez Meriño. Mujica and DH Javier Camero singled and Arruebaruena drew a walk. Erluis Blanco relieved and Dreke hit a two-run single. Granma tied it back in the bottom of the inning. García singled off Entenza, Milán walked and Alexquemer Sánchez bunted into an error by C Andrys Pérez. Naykel Cruz relieved and got two outs but LF Raico Santos hit a two-run single to even it at five. Granma got the winning run in the 8th when Raico Santos hit a two-run dinger off Joel Suárez. Santiesteban allowed the first two men on the 9th but then got a double-play grounder and Santiesteban fanned CF Eduardo Blanco to end it.
On March 31, Matanzas won in another close game. Reinier Rivero and Cruz combined to allow only one run (a solo shot by CF Roel Santos in the 7th) and four hits. Matanzas scored in the bottom of the third when CF Eduardo Blanco, 3B Mujica and LF Ariel Sánchez all singled off César García. In the 4th, they got their last runs, but enough to win. 1B Duque singled and SS Arruebaruena walked. C Andrys Pérez reached on interference by César García. Eduardo Blanco grounded into a force at home and 2B Medina hit into an error to score Arruebaruena. Mujica singled in the final run for the victors.
Granma's bats boomed in a game 4 romp, 15-5, in a 7-inning mercy rule game. DH Guillermo García goes 4 for 5 with two homers and six RBI, while LF/CF Raico Santos scored three and 2B Carlos Benítez was 3 for 3 and drove in four. Joel Mojena got the win over Rivero, while Dreke drove in a pair in a losing effort. Lázaro Blanco and Yera squared off in game 6 and it was 3-3 entering the 9th. Matanzas then stayed alive, as PH Juan Vázquez reached against Santiesteban. Yoisnel Camejo pinch-ran and Eduardo Blanco laid down a sacrifice. A grounder moved the runner to third and a wild pitch by reliever Miguel Paradelo scored Camejo with the winner. Entenza got the win, his 100th in Serie Nacional play.
The decisive game 6 was a close affair as well. Matanzas loaded the bases in the first against Leandro Martínez but failed to score. In the bottom of the third, Granma got on the board versus Entenza when CF Roel Santos singled, stole and scored on a double by LF Raico Santos. In the top of the 5th, Matanzas exploded for five runs, three on a double by CF Eduardo Blanco off César García. Granma pecked back away; in the 6th, 1B Avilés scored on a double play grounder to make it 5-2. Roel Santos's dinger in the 7th closed it to 5-3. In the 8th, Avilés drew a walk from Cruz and DH Guillermo García singled. Suárez relieved; after a sacrifice hit, SS Milán's sacrifice fly barely scored a run, partly helped by a misplay by the catcher. Roel Santos then singled for his third hit, scoring Guillermo García. Montejo went 1-2-3 in the top of the 9th. Granma then remained hot in the bottom of the 9th, scoring for the fourth straight inning. Raico Santos walked and 2B Benítez singled. Jonder Martínez replaced Suárez but also struggled, plunking Avilés. Guillermo García then singled in the series winner, completing a four-for-dour day to score Santos.
Regular Season Standings
|Santiago de Cuba
|Pablo Alberto Civil
|Pinar del Rio
|Ciego de Ávila
|Isla de la Juventud
|José Luis Rodríguez
Playoffs: Pinar del Rio def. Sancti Spíritus, 3 games to 0. Granma def. Industriales, 3 games to 2. Matanzas def. Cienfuegos, 3 games to 0. Granma def. Pinar del Rio, 4 games to 2. Las Tunas def. Santiago de Cuba, 3 games to 1. Matanzas def. Las Tunas, 4 games to 2. Granma def. Matanzas, 4 games to 2.
- Bold indicates either wooden bat record or aluminum bat record (1976-1977 to 1998-1999), Italics indicate Serie Nacional record
Lisbán Correa of the Industriales won the Serie Nacional MVP after leading the league in slugging and homers. He was the first former defector to win. Mayabeque's Marlon Vega was named Serie Nacional Rookie of the Year after going 9-2 with 3 saves and a 4.36 ERA.
All-Stars were C Yosvany Alarcón (Las Tunas), 1B Rafael Viñales (Las Tunas), 2B César Prieto (Cienfuegos), SS Luis Mateo (Cienfuegos), 3B Jefferson Delgado (Matanzas), UT Jorge Alomá (Industriales), LF Yasniel González (Mayabeque), CF Geisel Cepeda (Sancti Spíritus), RF Dennis Laza (Mayabeque), RHP Frank Madan (Camagüey), LHP Yudiel Rodríguez (Las Tunas) and RP Yunior Tur (Santiago de Cuba).
Defensive All-Stars were C Andrys Pérez (Matanzas), 1B Daniel Pérez (Cienfuegos), 2B Prieto, SS Yordan Manduley (Holguín), 3B Luis Ángel Sánchez (Guantanamo), OF Dailier Peña (Las Tunas), OF Yoasán Guillén (Industriales), OF Andrés Quiala (Las Tunas), UT Magdiel Gómez (Villa Clara) and P José Pablo Cuesta (Industriales).