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Cuba, Chinese Taipei battle to stay alive at WBC

(Sports Network) - Cuba came out of the first round of the World Baseball Classic undefeated. But, it will be fighting to stay in the tournament on Saturday when it plays Chinese Taipei in a Pool 1 elimination game at the Tokyo Dome.

Cuba won all three of its Pool A games, including a thrilling win over Japan to earn the top seed out of that bracket. However, it stumbled in its first game of the second round, falling to the surprising Netherlands, 6-2.

Alfredo Despaigne and Yulieski Gourriel drilled a solo shot apiece for Cuba, while Ismel Jimenez (0-1) gave up two runs on five hits and two walks over just 1 2/3 innings in defeat.

"My batting is good compared to the last couple of days," Gourriel said. "I hope I can contribute more in tomorrow's game.

Even though they lost, Cuban manager Victor Mesa wasn't impressed by the Dutch.

"I don't think they're a very good team, to be honest," Mesa said through a translator. "I think we could've scored more. I think we should've scored four or five more runs."

Cuba, of course, lost to Japan in the 2006 WBC championship, but failed to get out of the second round in '09.

Now, Cuba faces another upstart in Chinese Taipei, which was one strike away from winning, but fell to Japan, 4-3, in a thrilling contest on Friday.

"First of all, my players played very well, and I can't thank everyone enough," Chinese Taipei manager Chang-Heng Hseieh said through a translator. "In such an international game in such an international competition, I am always eager to play well, so we can get closer to Japan. Although we lost, we put a lot of pressure on Japan."

Chien-Ming Wang was brilliant in the start for Chinese Taipei, throwing six innings of shutout ball. He limited Japan to six hits and walked only one while his teammates built a 2-0 lead.

"He went six innings without any runs," Hseieh said. "I can't complain. It's the best result. Unfortunately we couldn't beat Japan, but all the players played as hard as they could."

Japan, though, scored twice in the eighth to even the game, before Taiwan regained the advantage with a run in the home half. Chinese Taipei couldn't hold the lead in the ninth as Takashi Toritani drew a walk with one out, then stole second on a close play before scoring easily on Hirokazu Ibata's line drive single to center.

After Chinese Taipei couldn't take advantage of a leadoff single in the bottom of the ninth, Japan put its first two batters aboard in the 10th on a single and a walk. A perfect bunt advanced the runners and Sho Nakata drilled a pitch to the warning track in left field to chase home the go-ahead run.

Chinese Taipei, which is in the second round for the first time in the Classic, threatened in the bottom of the 10th with a pair of one-out singles, but Yung-Chi Chen grounded into a double play to end the game.

The winner of this contest will play the loser of the game between the Netherlands and Japan in another elimination game on Monday.

03/08 12:55:53 ET


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