Perez three-run home run sees Venezuela top Cuba in a 6-5 thriller
Carlos Perez hit a three-run home run in the top of the first inning, and Venezuela never trailed as they defeated Cuba 6-5 in a thrilling game one of Group B play at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach, Florida.
Perez added an RBI single in the top of the third inning off Cuba starter Lazaro Blanco to increase Venezuela’s lead to 4-0, while Venezuela starter Anibal Sanchez was able to work himself out of trouble in the early going.
Sanchez allowed three baserunners in the first, but emerged unscathed after Venezuelan left fielder Alexander Palma threw out Cuba’s Yadil Mujica at home plate on an Alfredo Despaigne single.
Sanchez then yielded three straight singles with one out in the second inning before Roel Santos grounded into an inning ending double play.
Cuba’s offense finally broke through in the bottom of the fourth when Erisbel Arruebaruena homered, cutting the Venezuela lead in half at 4-2. A Mujica single in the fifth chased Sanchez from the game and brought Cuba within one at 4-3, but another inning ending double play kept Venezuela in front going into the sixth.
Hernan Perez led off the sixth inning with a home run for Venezuela, and the third baseman finished the game 3-for-5 with a single and a triple in addition to his first home run of the tournament.
Robinson Chirinos added an insurance run for Venezuela in the top of the eighth inning, blasting an 0-2 pitch from Livan Moinelo over the wall and into Cuba’s bullpen in left, making it 6-3 for the visitors. The home run was Chirinos’s only hit of the game, but it would loom large as Cuba made a comeback in the bottom of the ninth.
Pinch hitting for Santos, Lisban Correa jacked a two-run homer to deep left-center with one out and Cuba was down 6-5. Yordanis Samon worked a two-out walk to extend the game and the stage was set for the legendary Despaigne. Facing Moises Gomez, Despaigne swung hard at a 2-1 pitch and fell to the ground grabbing his left shoulder. He would be removed from the game, replaced by 19-year-old Rafael Viñales who grounded out to second to end the ballgame.
The stunning conclusion capped off an incredible game that had thrilled the capacity crowd of 3,629. The win was the first for Venezuela in a world level tournament against Cuba since the 1953 World Cup.
Venezuela (1-0) will take on Colombia on Tuesday afternoon at Clover Park in Port St. Lucie, while Cuba (0-1) will face Canada in the night game.
(Top photo of Venezuela: WBSC)