Yoenis Cespedes arrived in the United States tied for the single-season home run record in Cuba's Serie Nacional. Now that record belongs to Alfredo Despaigne.
Cespedes' former teammate with Granma, Despaigne hit his 34th home run of the season tonight in the second inning, launching a 1-1 pitch over the fence in left field. After taking a first-pitch fastball for a strike and laying off another fastball just off the plate to even the count, Despaigne got one grooved down the middle and broke his bat on the swing, but he hit the ball with so much force that there was little doubt it was going to leave the park the moment it left his bat. Despaigne knew it immediately, though it was a bit of an odd sight from what we're used to seeing since there didn't appear to be a fan anywhere in the outfield seats to retrieve the ball.
Despaigne wasn't finished. In the top of the eighth, Industriales lefthander Roberto Santiesteban flicked curveball after curveball at the righthanded-hitting Despaigne, who fell behind in the count before Santiesteban left a 1-2 pitch up and on the outer half. Despaigne took advantage of the mistake, going the other way to deposit the pitch over the right field fence for home run No. 35.
The previous single-season home run record was set last season by Cespedes and Cienfuegos first baseman Jose Abreu. A two-time MVP in Cuba, Despaigne, a 25-year-old left fielder, now has reclaimed the record he first broke in 2008-09, when he hit 32 home runs. Despaigne, who entered the game hitting .340/.495/.730 in 392 plate appearances, ranks second in Cuba in both OBP and slugging, with Abreu leading both categories. Granma still has 11 games left on its 96-game schedule (the league had previously played a 90-game season), so Despaigne still has time to add to his record-breaking total.
Here's video of Despaigne's 34th and 35th home runs:
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