Coming into Group A of the World Baseball Classic, Cuba seemed to be one of the favorites. The Cubans lost to the Netherlands, then lost to Italy – falling into an 0-2 hole and having to deal with questions about team unity and why no one was hitting. How could Cuba, a historically great country in baseball, have performed so poorly internationally?
Coach Armando Johnson stressed patience. And, well, the Cubans recovered.
Johnson’s team defeated Panama 13-4, clicking in all facets of the game. And then, in their final match of Round 1 on Sunday, they dominated a fiery Chinese Taipei side 7-1, keeping alive their hopes of traveling to Tokyo for Round 2.
If Chinese Taipei and the Netherlands lose, it will be a 5-5 tie in Pool A, with each team 2-2, with the top two to be decided by the tie-break procedure.
Here’s what to know about the match:
Just like during their win against Panama, Cuba clicked on all sides of the ball.
First, their hitting: They scored four quick runs in the first, knocking the rowdy Chinese Taipei crowd out of the game.
Yoán Moncada, who has heated up in recent days, hit a run double to left center field, Luis Robert hit an error and then WBC legend Alfredo Despaigne hit a two-RBI double into the hole.
Erisbel Arruebarrena added insult to injury with a stadium-silencing two-run homer in the deepest part of the stadium.
Cuba added two more runs in the second. Roel Santos reached to score the run, but was sacked stealing for the second out of the frame. Moncada was next, however, and he continued his torrid hitting with a solo home run to right.
Santos added one more run with an RBI single in the fourth.
Cuba’s pitching staff was also fantastic, keeping Chinese Taipei’s hot bats quiet.