Cuba Edges Australia 4-3 to Reach the WBC Semifinals
Yoelkis Guibert provided a key hit for Cuba, the 2006 World Baseball Classic runner-up, and clutch performances from two NPB pitchers secured the win.
Yoelkis Guibert delivered the key hit and two pitchers with experience in Japan shut the door as Cuba beat Australia 4-3 on Wednesday, March 15 to advance to the semifinals of the World Baseball Classic.
Playing before a larger-than-expected crowd of 35,061 at Tokyo Dome, Cuba took a 4-1 lead in the fifth.
Alfredo Despaigne, who spent many years with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks in the Pacific League, drove in the go-ahead run on a bases-loaded sacrifice fly to right field to make it 2-1.
Cuba then doubled its advantage on Guibert's bases-loaded, one-out single to right plating Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert Jr.
"I was hitting sixth in the order and that worked well," Guibert said. "To be honest, I was just trying to make good contact and avoid hitting into a double play."
But it didn't take Australia long to get right back in it.
Rixon Wingrove crushed an offering from Cuba pitcher Roenis Elias into the right-field stands for a two-run homer in the top of the sixth to pull the Aussies within one run.
But that was as close as they would get.
Strong Pitching Seals the Win for Cuba
Livan Moinelo, who pitches the Hawks, worked a scoreless eighth and Raidel Martinez of the Chunichi Dragons retired the side in the ninth for the save.
Miguel Romero, Cuba's second pitcher of the night, picked up the win after striking out two batters and holding Australia to no runs on one hit over 1⅔ innings.
"Our pitchers were very good," Cuba manager Armando Johnson said. "Especially the ones who had experience in Japan. Without them, I don't think we would have won."
Cuba was runner-up at the inaugural tournament in 2006, which Japan won, but has been out of the top three since.
With two major leaguers ― Yoán Moncada and Robert Jr ― in the lineup for the first time in World Baseball Classic history, Cuba is looking to re-establish its standing as one of the best teams in the world.
Cuba moves on to the semifinals in Miami on Sunday, March 19. The Cubans will face the winner of Venezuela versus the yet-to-be-determined Pool C runner-up.
"We started this tournament with two losses and now we have turned it around and are going to the semifinals," Johnson said. "It's a credit to the players that we have been able to achieve this."
Japan will take on Italy at Tokyo Dome on Thursday night for a chance to go to the US with Cuba.
Wingrove's Single Gives Australia the Early Lead
Australia took a 1-0 lead in the second inning.
Darryl George hit a double off the wall in center that was inches away from being a home run. He advanced on a sacrifice bunt and scored on Wingrove's single to right.
George had a chance to widen the lead in the third but grounded out to short with the bases loaded.
Cuba tied the score in the bottom of the third.
With runners on second and third, Robert Jr grounded out to short, allowing Roel Santos to score.
Author: Jim Armstrong
The author is a longtime journalist who has covered sports in Japan for over 25 years. You can find his articles on SportsLook.