By Leif Skodnick
World Baseball Network
Cuba’s Agricultores looked like a team playing out the string on Wednesday at the Caribbean Series, barely mustering a whimper as they dropped their final game at the 2023 Caribbean Series to Panama 10-4.
Agricultores, the champions of the inaugural season of the Cuban Elite League earned their way into the Caribbean Series, and were competitive despite winning only one game. Three of the losses were one-run games and another was a 3-1 loss, which belies Cuba’s run differential, rendered lopsided by the 20-3 drubbing Cuba took at the hands of host nation Venezuela last Saturday.
Cuba got on the board in the bottom of the first when Yuniesky Larduet scored on Raico Santos’s sac fly to center.
But Panama’s Federales de Chiriqui took control in the top of the third. Enrique Valdez led off with a single, then stole second. Two batters later, Ivan Herrera drew a walk, and then Joe Deluca followed Herrera with a single, scoring Valdes. Jahdiel Santamaria drew a walk to load the bases and ending the day for Cuba starter Leandro Martinez.
Five pitches into his outing, new Cuban pitcher Carlos Martinez allowed a bases-clearing double by Jhonny Santos to put Panama up 4-1. A following single by Rodrigo Orozco gave Panama its fifth run of the inning.
In the top of the fourth, Panama added two more, one on a one-out RBI double by Jahdiel Santamaria that scored Michael Wielansky and another on a single by Jorge Bishop that scored Joe Deluca to make it 7-1.
Cuba battled back with three runs in the bottom of the seventh, getting to Panama reliever Angel Cuan quickly when Rafael Vinales led off with a single to left. Carlos Benitez followed with a single, and Yordany Alarcon came next, singling to center and scoring Vinales. Yunesky Larduet’s two-out single scored Benitez, making it 7-3. Raico Santos’ single scored Andres de la Cruz, who reached on a fielder’s choice, to cut the Panama lead to three.
Aside from that hiccup in the seventh, Cuba didn’t threaten in the late innings.
Panama added three more runs in the top of the ninth before Wilfredo Pereira came on to retire the side in order in the bottom of the ninth.
Cuba finished 1-6 in their first Caribbean Series appearance since 2019. Panama finished 3-4.
The two semifinals will be played Thursday, the first, between the second seed and the third seed, will be played at 2:30 p.m. at Estadio Forum in La Guaira, and the second, featuring the first seed against the fourth seed, will be played at 6:30 p.m. at La Rinconada.
Both games will be available on ESPN Deportes and streamed live on ESPN+.