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TAICHUNG, Taiwan — Coming into Pool A of the World Baseball Classic, Cuba looked to be one of the favorites.
The Cubans lost to Netherlands, then they lost to Italy — falling into an 0-2 hole and having to deal with questions about team unity and why nobody was hitting. How could Cuba — a historically great baseball country — perform so badly on the international level?
Manager Armando Johnson stressed patience. And, well, the Cubans bounced back.
Johnson’s team routed Panama, 13-4, clicking in all facets of the game. And then, in their last matchup of Round 1 on Sunday, they dominated a fired-up Chinese Taipei squad 7-1 — keeping their hopes of a trip to Tokyo for Round 2 alive.
If both Chinese Taipei and the Netherlands lose, there’ll be a five-way tie in Pool A with each team at 2-2, and the top two squads will be settled by tiebreaking procedures.
Here’s what you need to know about the matchup:
Like during its win against Panama, Cuba clicked on all sides of the ball.
First, it was their hitting: They scored four quick runs in the first — taking the loud Taiwanese crowd out of the game (as much as you can take these fans out of a game).
Yoan Moncada — who’s heated up over the last few days — roped a ground-rule double to left-center, Luis Robert reached on an error and then WBC legend Alfredo Despaigne lined a two-RBI double into the gap.
Erisbel Arruebarrena added insult to injury with a stadium-silencing two-run homer to the deepest part of the ballpark.
Cuba added two more runs in the second. Roel Santos had a run-scoring groundout, but was then caught stealing for the second out of the frame. Moncada was up next, though, and he continued his torrid hitting with a solo dinger to right.
Santos added one more run on an RBI single in the fourth.
Cuba’s pitching staff was also fantastic — holding Chinese Taipei’s hot bats silent.
Elian Leyva went 2 1/3 scoreless innings before leaving with apparent hand cramps. Miguel Romero replaced him to serve up 2 2/3 scoreless innings, striking out four. Lefty Onelki Garcia threw up zeros through two innings.
So now, we have a three-way tie: Cuba, Chinese Taipei and Panama are all 2-2. Because they beat both teams head-to-head, Cuba would hold the tiebreaker over the other two … but there’s more to the story. Italy (1-2) still has to play Netherlands (2-1) on Sunday (7 a.m. ET, FS2). If the Netherlands wins, the Netherlands and Cuba would move on to the next round in Tokyo. But if Italy wins, every team in Pool A will be 2-2 and the Pool A winner/Pool A runner-Up will be determined by tiebreaker measures following the conclusion of Sunday’s games.
original source: WATCH LIVE: Chinese Taipei looks to advance vs. Cuba on FS2