Team Cuba is on the verge of elimination after falling to Italy 6-3 in extra innings
Updated: Mar 10
As of now, Cuba has a 0-2 record and won't depend on their results to advance to the second round
Against Panama on March 7, 2006, Cuba played 10 innings, in what proved to be the first extra-inning game the country had ever taken part in World Classics since its debut. Today, it was the second extra innings Cuba had ever played at this level.
It was another European rival, this time Italy, that beat Cuba 6-3 in 10 innings on Thursday at the Taichung Intercontinental Stadium in a huge surprise.
Cuba now finds itself in a precarious position in a group where the Netherlands continued to demonstrate its favoritism by disposing of Panama 3-1.
The Cuban team will play their third game against Panama on Thursday at 11:30 pm (Havana time and Eastern US time), with the goal of avoiding early elimination from the tournament.
Matt Harvey contributed to Italy's historic triumph by putting up three scoreless innings with 40 pitches, two hits, and a walk against Cuba.
"It was an incredible win for us here and I couldn't be more proud to have received the ball in the first game," Harvey said after the game.
There were even more outstanding achievements by Cuban Roenis Elías. He gave up just two hits while walking one and striking out three on 67 pitches in 5 innings against Italy. This was the second quality start for the Cuban team in the tournament.
Yadir Drake and Yadil Mujica started the bottom of the third inning with hits against Harvey. He was able to get through the most difficult part of the lineup, retiring Guibert, Moncada and Luis Robert to end the threat.
Following five full innings of scoreless play, Italy put the register to work in the sixth against Cuban relievers.
Right-hander José R. Rodriguez took the ball and began to struggle, as he could only retire one batter and Italy loaded the bases with singles. Despite Naykel Cruz's strong relief, retiring the next two batters, Sullivan's sacrifice fly to right brought home the first run of the game. Italia was leading 1-0.
In the next inning, Italy would extend its lead, thanks mostly to left fielder Yoennis Céspedes. He dropped a ball in left field with a runner on second base, allowing him to score for a 2-0 lead.
Cuba managed to come back against the Italian relief pitching when Arruebarrena was called upon to save the day. In that seventh inning, "El Grillo" started the inning with a triple to center on a shot that was poorly fielded by the center fielder. Lorenzo Quintana followed with an RBI single to bring Arruebarrena home.
Arruebarrena would drive in Despaigne an inning later, dropping the ball deep in right field, to tie the game sending the Cuban bench into a frenzy.
The extra innings and tiebreaker rule were used when neither team scored in the ninth.
Italy, the visitor, positioned Sal Frelick at second base, and he quickly took the Cuban defense by surprise and stole third base. It was from there that he scored, when the Cuban closer, Raidel Martínez, allowed John Valente's single to center.
There would be more, however. Against left-handed Onelki García - new reliever for Cuba - , Dominic Fletcher put another on the board with a double to right field and, after Sullivan's out, David Fletcher was intentionally walked. But then Nicky López singled to center to drive in two more runs that put Italy 6-2 up.
Despite another Cuban run in the bottom of the 10th, the Azzurri were able to walk away with the first win for their mentor, Hall of Famer Mike Piazza.
"I was really impressed with our team. We didn't give up. We fought and ... it was a great victory for our federation," Piazza said afterward.
Cubans simply suffered in all orders during the game. With Moncada going 0-for-5 and 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position in the game, Cuba once again failed to produce in the middle of their lineup. In Cuba's third turn, Luis Robert remains a caricature. Despite being 1-for-5 with an RBI against Italy, he struck out five times in nine plate appearances in Cuba's first two games. In two games, Moncada-Luis Robert-Céspedes have combined to go 2-23 (.087) with one RBI, three walks, and seven strikeouts. In two games with RISP, Cuba has hit only .167 (18-3) and left 14 men on base.
In less than 24 hours, the Cubans will face Panama tonight at 11:30 pm, in a game that could leave the team with no chance of advancing. In this edition of the World Classic, only the top two teams from each group advance to the quarterfinals.