After a convincing 7-1 victory over Chinese Taipei, Cuba clears all doubts
Updated: Mar 14
For the fifth consecutive time in the World Classics, the Cubans must advance to the second round
Throughout the brief history of the World Classics, Cuba never lost the two initial matches. This was the situation faced by the Cuban team of the V edition of the World Classic after a 6-3 defeat against Italy in 10 innings on Thursday, March 9.
Three days later, after beating Panama and Chinese Taipei, respectively, Cuba nearly has a spot in the next round, for the tournament quarterfinals in Tokyo, Japan.
As for Chinese Taipei, it was eliminated after being a great host and with a crowd that never stopped supporting them.
The Cuban offense, which was asleep during the first two games of the tournament, remained awake to produce the needed runs to win.
Cuba could not play from behind in front of 18,852 fans at the Taichung Intercontinental Stadium, most of whom backed the home team.
Four runs in the very first inning silenced - let's be honest, not always completely - almost an entire stadium, due to how early Cuba was taking the lead, in a game in which both teams were playing their part.
Despite being completely dominated by the opposition in most of the first two Cuba games, Yoán Moncada hit a double to center off starter Chen Shih-Peng, Luis Robert reached base on a shortstop's throwing error, and then Alfredo Despaigne drove in two with a double in the gap in right, giving Cuba a 2-0 lead.
Erisbel Arruebarrena completed the four-run inning against Chen by hitting a home run to center field.
Cuba would extend the score in the second inning.
After Yadir Drake and Yadil Mujica hit singles to begin the inning, Mujica moved Drake to third. Roel Santos forced Mujica into a grounder to shortstop, but Drake scored from third. Cuba was winning 5-0. The Taipei starter left the game, and Kuan-Wei Chen entered. But Moncada would make it 6-0 after hitting a solo home run after Santos was caught stealing.
Cuba would score one last time in the fourth. The inning began with Drake's double to center. After Mujica struck out, Santos singled to left, bringing Drake to the plate.
The Cuban starter, Elián Leyva, and four relievers played an important role in making the result possible. Just 24 hours after Taipei stripped the undefeated Netherlands, Cuban pitching kept this offense quiet, allowing just 2 hits through 8 innings.
Leyva won the game after pitching 2 1/3 scoreless innings with four strikeouts, two walks and one single. A cramp in Leyva's pitching hand forced him to leave the game in the third inning. Continuing his excellent work during the tournament, Luis M. Romero pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings, striking out four, and Onelki Garcia pitched 2 scoreless innings, striking out two.
The two relief pitchers form the Japanese league arrived later in the game. In the eight Liván Moinelo in the eighth completing the inning with a strikeout and only 10 pitches, making it 13 consecutive retired Taipei batters.
Even though he was the only pitcher to allow a Taipei run, Raidel Martínez sealed the win. A double by first baseman Yu Chang put Taipei on the board after the right-hander allowed a single leading off the inning. But as Martínez he retired the next two batters, he completed an important win for Cuba.
The win improved Cuba's record against Chinese Taipei to 2-0 in the World Classics, allowing only one run in 15 innings with 8 hits allowed and 16 strikeouts.
Regarding Cuba's progress in the tournament, it has to do with the fact that at the moment, Group A has three teams with a 2-2 record, Panama, Chinese Taipei, and Cuba. Having defeated the two previous teams, Cuba will advance to the next round if the Netherlands defeats Italy. In the event that Italy wins, everyone in the group would be tied at 2-2. Here is where the tiebreaker rule comes into play. Preliminarily, we can say that Cuba would advance for the following reasons:
The Netherlands is classified unless Italy wins by more than four run
In the event that Italy doesn't win by four runs or more, they will be eliminated
Panama will be eliminated unless Italy wins and allows 10 runs
Chinese Taipei has been eliminated
Cuba is classified unless Italy beats the Netherlands by more than ten runs. If no team exceeds Cuba's tiebreaker coefficient (runs allowed / defensive outs), the team can advance as the first in the group.