Cuba demolish Taiwan in World Baseball Classic
TOKYO (AFP) –
Powerful Cuba belted four home runs in a 14-0 demolition of Taiwan on Saturday which kept alive their hopes of a first World Baseball Classic title.
Frederich Cepeda’s two-run homer got them off and running in the first inning and Yasmany Tomas hit another for three runs in the fourth, before Jose Abreu and Alfredo Despaigne both knocked it out of the park in a sixth-inning rampage.
The thumping win, which was brought to an early halt after Cuba had a more than 10-point advantage after seven innings, revived the campaign of the 2006 finalists after Friday’s shock loss to the Netherlands.
Cuba will now face the losers of Sunday’s clash between Japan, the two-time defending champions, and the Netherlands for a spot in the second round’s final game on Tuesday.
But defeat spelled the end of Taiwan’s campaign after the round one co-hosts narrowly lost to Japan 4-3 on Friday.
“I told my men,’We have no more game if we lose this one. We got to score first to put the brakes on the opponents,’” Cuba manager Victor Mesa said. “We did score first and produce the result,” he said. “Whoever come our way next, we have no choice but to fight on.”
Taiwan manager Hsieh Chang-Heng used five pitchers in a vain effort to stop Cuba.
“The average level of pitchers must be kept high. But we have an uneven level of pitchers and it is difficult for us in fielding them,” Hsieh said. “Taiwan, as they are now, may play well in one game but they slip back in the next game to suffer a big defeat.”
Cepeda’s two-run homer off Taiwan starter Lo Ching-Lung into the right stand put Cuba ahead 2-0 in the bottom of the first.
Taiwan squandered a scoring chance with two outs in the second inning when Kuo Yen-Wen grounded out with runners on the first and second bases.
Lo walked Erisbel Arruebarruena at the start of Cuba’s third-inning offensive and let him reach second base on a sacrifice bunt by Guillermo Heredia.
Manager Hsieh changed their pitcher to left-hander Yang Yao-Hsun to stop the Caribbean guns.
But they had to pull him out in the next inning after he allowed Cuba a four-run blitz including the three-run homer by right-fielder Tomas.
“We knew it was a crucial game for us and we had to move forward,” said the 22-year-old Tomas. “I hit a home-run very timely to push the team move forward and I am glad about that.”
Taiwan put another runner in a scoring position with two outs in the fifth inning after catcher Kao Chih-Kang was walked and reached second base on a grounder by Kuo.
But Yang Dai-Kang popped up, drawing a collective sigh from Taiwan supporters among a sparse crowd of 13,000 at the 46,000-seat Tokyo Dome.
Cuba’s red machine hit top gear in the sixth with eight runs including two homers by Abreu and Despaigne, forcing Taiwan to change their pitcher twice. The game was called at the end of the seventh inning as Cuba’s lead had surpassed 10 runs.