PanAm'2023 | Despite problems, Cuba defeated Colombia 4-3 on its debut
The Cuban hitters left ten men on-bases
Despite the fact that Cuba didn't have the perfect debut at the XIX edition of the Pan American Games in Chile'2023, victory is finally a reality, a 4-3 win over Colombia in Group B placed the Cubans at the top of Group B along with Brazil, which beat Venezuela the previous day.
The Cubans, playing at the Bicentenario de Cerrillos Park in the Baseball and Softball center of Santiago de Chile this Friday morning, found a great rivalry against a Colombian team that, in the 2019 Pan-American event, began the debacle of the Cubans in the tournament beating them 6-1 in the opening game of the event.
History did not repeat itself this time.
After the game, Cuban manager Armando Johnson dispelled doubts about his team, telling the Cuban sports digital newspaper Jit "We obtained the first victory, I think it was a hard-fought victory for the boys who are well focused on the games...it was a difficult game 4-3," he said, adding "Some inaccuracies need to be corrected and we must prepare now, since the championship is short".
Regarding the next game against Venezuela, Johnson noted: "It is against Venezuela, a tough rival that lost a game against Brazil but all the teams here are well prepared."
Yoanni Yera failed to live up to his expectations as a Cuban starter. A Cuban lead was twice wasted by Yera in his brief performance. He was finished off in the fourth inning, when third baseman Fabian Pertuz hit a two-run homer to tie the game at 3-3.
Cuba took the lead in the first inning against right-handed starter Randy Consuegra. Dayán García' single to left field drove in Roel Santos with the first run of the game. But the lead would not last. In the second inning, Carlos M. Martínez hit a solo shot off Yera to tie it at one.
The Cubans would lead again in the third against Consuegra, thanks to Roberto Baldoquín' solo shot to left field. The Cubans could have scored big in the inning, when they loaded the bases with only one out. However, they could only get one more run on a ground ball from Luis González who brought Yoelkis Guibert to the plate.
After Pertuz's home run tied the score at three in the fourth, Colombia could have scored a lot more in the inning as well. The Colombians loaded the bases after one out. However, reliever Renner Rivero forced a 4-6-3 double play, brilliantly executed by the Cuban defense, to close the inning and save Cuba.
Ultimately, the Cuban starter threw 3 1/3 innings with 63 pitches, allowing three earned runs on six hits - four extra-bases -, with four strikeouts, and no walks, and leaving the game with no decision.
In the fourth inning, Cuba had another chance. Arruebarrena batted with runners in the corners. After an intense battle with the Colombian reliever, he gave up the third out on a line drive to left field.
Colombia put a man on base in the fifth inning after an out due to a walk. However, Renner Rivero retired the next batter in an excellent 5-4-3 double play, in which third baseman Roberto Baldoquín displayed remarkable defensive abilities.
Fifth inning was the deciding inning. As Colombian right-hander Jorge E. Martinez entered the game, he struck out Dayán García. But back-to-back singles by Luis González and Yasniel González threatened Colombia with runners in the corners. When catcher Andrys Pérez walked, Martínez was removed and left-hander Kevin Escorcia was called to face Mujica and Santos.
The Cuban manager said specifically about the non-substitution of Andrys Pérez by a pinch-hitter in this fifth inning: "We value it, but we did not decide because Andrys is a very defensive catcher in close games. Although he has some offensive gaps, he is a timely hitter."
Reliever Escorcia retired Mujica on a ground ball to first base. On this play, the Colombian first baseman made an excellent catch to force the runner on second base. However, he couldn't prevent Cuba from taking the lead when Luis González crossed the plate for the decisive run. Cuba led 4-3 and never looked back.
Rivero got two outs in the sixth, but after giving up a walk, the Cuban manager decided to bring in the bullpen. Yankiel Mauris entered the game and retired the next batter to end the inning.
Rivero, after pitching 2 1/3 scoreless innings in which he walked two and struck out one, was credited with the win.
In the seventh, right-hander Frank A. Álvarez was called up to close the game. The Chunichi Dragons reliever needed 19 pitches to seal the Cuban victory, allowing a single, but striking out two. Álvarez was credited with the save.
Álvarez specifically pointed out to Jit after the match: "Thank God we had the first victory, we came to win them all but the first victory is always of importance, and today it was super critical to get the first victory for Cuba and start at the top of the standings." Regarding his work and how he felt, Álvarez said: "I felt super good, since my incorporation to the team from Japan, thank God we have been doing great preparation, the team has an excellent dynamic and great unity and well, we are all for the same goal."
Cuba now faces Venezuela this Sunday at 2:00 pm, Cuban and US Eastern Standard Time, in a game that could well determine the island's place in the Super Round.