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Weary Taiwan falls hard to Cuba

by John E. Gibson (Mar 11, 2013)

The top-ranked Cubans had their backs against the wall. For the upstart Taiwanese, the wall was simply too high.

A day after losing two leads late to two-time defending World Baseball Classic champion Japan, Taiwan looked a lot less like the fifth-ranked team in the International Baseball Federation rankings and more like an overmatched group.

Frederich Cepeda hit one of three longballs, and the Cuban scored four in the fourth inning and eight in the sixth to knock Taiwan out of the WBC with a 14-0 rout halted after 7-1/2 innings on Saturday night at Tokyo Dome.

"Our goal was to make it to Tokyo," skipper Hsieh Chang-heng admitted through an interpreter after his team's second loss of the double-elimination second round.

"To get a victory over such a strong team like Cuba, we needed to have a special outing from pitchers. But I have no complaints because we accomplished our goal of coming to Tokyo.

"For the 2017 WBC, I hope we can make it to the final four."

Pitching was indeed the issue for the Taiwanese. They used seven hurlers in Friday's 4-3 extra-inning loss to Japan, and the team exhausted its bullpen against the hard-hitting Cubans.

"Last night's game [Friday] showed that there isn't that much of a gap between Japan and Taiwan," Hsieh said. "The biggest difference is the gap between the pitchers.

"If we can develop our pitching, we can compete better in international games. Lately, we have a very good game one day and then we lose like we lost tonight. That's the problem."

Cuba had no problem in the must-win game, which puts the Caribbean powerhouse into another win-or-go-home situation today against the loser of Sunday's game between Japan and the Netherlands.

"The only thing we can do is play hard," said Cuban manager Victor Mesa. "But my ambition is to go to San Francisco with Japan."

After Cepeda put Cuba ahead with a two-run homer off starter and loser Lo Ching-lung in the first inning, the Cubans beat up on Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks lefty Yang Yao-hsun in the fourth.

Yang issued a free pass to Cepeda to open the frame then botched a sacrifice bunt, tossing it over the second baseman covering at first to put runners on second and third with none out.

An RBI single scored one and Yasmani Tomas cracked his second homer of the tournament to make it 6-0 Cuba.

A pair of two-run homers in the sixth highlighted an eight-run outburst and ended Pool B-winning Taiwan's tournament.


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