The Nippon-Ham Fighters thrash Cuba 11-2 during Cuba's first preparation game
The Cuban team's pitching was weak, and its starter Yoennis Yera left early
In an exhibition game in the Japanese city of Okinawa, the Nippon-Ham Fighters of the second division of Japan professional baseball defeated the Cuban national team, preparing for the V edition of the World Baseball Classic, by a margin of 11-2.
Cuba started lefty Yoennis Yera as a replacement for José R. Rodriguez, but the Japanese offense pounded him with six hits in 2 2/3 innings, including a triple, for five runs. Yera walked four, had no strikeouts, and threw a wild pitch. He took the loss.
As a result of Yera's departure, Yeudis Reyes, Javier Mirabal, and Franky Quintana saw action. But in general the Cubans' pitching was mediocre, some of them with strong arms but no sense of throwing. Cuban pitchers walked nine opposing hitters.
In the sixth inning, Reyes gave up the only home run of the game, a two-run blast by outfielder Daiki Asama.
In spite of the Cubans hitting 10 hits - Nippon-Ham hit 12 - they were not clutch offensively, which would have sealed the victory for the Japanese.
During the game, Cuba only scored twice. The first run was scored by Cuba in the sixth inning. Roel Santos singled on a bunt, Yoelkis Guibert walked, and Alfredo Despaigne doubled to leftfield after Yurisbel Gracial's out.
In the previous inning, the Cubans nearly opened the score when Dayán García doubled to leftfield with one out, but with Guillermo García at bat, Dayán was picked up via pitcher-shortstop, for the second out of the inning.
Cuba would score one last time in the ninth inning, with a triple by Yadir Drake - it was a play where the center fielder almost caught the ball before it dropped - and a sacrifice fly to rightfield by pinch hitter Yendrys Pérez.
Starter Kisei Yoshida was credited with the win.
The Cuban team for this matchup was as follows:
#1 Roel Santos, CF
#7 Yoelkis Guibert, RF
#27 Yurisbel Gracial, 3B
#54 Alfredo Despaigne, DH
#33 Yadir Drake, 1B
#40 Ariel Martínez, C
#44 Dayán García, 2B
#15 Guillermo García, LF
#8 Luis V. Mateo, SS
#58 Yoennis Yera, P
Here are some statistics about the Cuban offensive:
Cuba's first hit came in the 3rd inning on a grounder by shortstop Luis V. Mateo
The first extra-base hit for Cuba was Dayán García's double in the 5th inning. In the game, García went 3-4
In a positive note, veteran outfielder Alfredo Despaigne went 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI
Cuba's starting catcher, Ariel Martínez, had good contacts with the ball during the game, but still went 0-for-3
Yadir Drake, another player who seems destined to be a starter during the Classic at first base, finished 1-for-4 with a triple and a run. He was also victim to two stellar fielding plays, including one by the second baseman in the second inning
Yurisbel Gracial had a terrible day, going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts
Cuba's leadoff hitter, Roel Santos, had a 1-for-4 game with one run and a strikeout
The second preparatory match will be played by Cuba this Sunday, February 19, at 12:30 am (ET) against the Chunichi Dragons of the Japanese Professional League. Tele Rebelde will broadcast the game.