With a 1-1 record through two games and only a game against Australia remaining, the Cubans kept alive their chances of advancing to the tournament’s second round
An opening loss to Japan put Cuba under pressure in the World Baseball Classic, and three innings of frustration against China and Bruce Chen only made things worse.
Then manager Carlos Marti called his hitters together before the bottom of the fourth inning Wednesday (local time) at the Tokyo Dome. Chen, the retired Major Leaguer who is China’s best pitcher, was out of the game, which remained scoreless. It was time for the Cubans to start scoring runs.
Marti’s players responded, quickly and dramatically. Cuba sent nine batters to the plate and scored four times in the fourth, taking control of a Pool B game they went on to win, 6-0. Roel Santos’ two-run triple was the biggest hit of the inning, coming right after 19-year-old Yoelquis Cespedes drove in the first run.
With a 1-1 record through two games and only a game against Australia remaining, the Cubans kept alive their chances of advancing to the tournament’s second round. China is 0-1, with games against Australia and Japan remaining.
“If we can win against Australia, we most likely go to the second round,” Marti said. “It’s going to be a very important game. But if we lose, it’s not the end of the world.”
Marti doesn’t want to put any more pressure on his team. The Cubans already had enough of that, as Wednesday’s game remained scoreless through three innings.
Marti said the purpose of his quick in-game meeting was simple, just a reminder his hitters needed to adjust to the slower-throwing Chinese pitchers after facing the harder-throwing Japanese relievers just hours earlier in Tuesday night’s 11-6 loss.
“That’s it,” he said.
And that was it. The Cubans started hitting, and China never did. Cuba starter Bladimir Baños and three relievers limited China to just one hit, a fifth-inning Shunyi Yang single off Banos.
“We didn’t have any hitting at all, and that’s a lot of credit to the Cuban pitchers,” China manager John McLaren said.
Chen didn’t allow a run in his 2 2/3 innings, but McLaren removed him after 49 pitches to preserve his eligibility to pitch later in Pool B play. McLaren said Chen will pitch at some point in China’s final scheduled first-round game, Friday night against Japan.
(Text and photos taken from www.worldbaseballclassic.com)