Cuba holds off Japan to win Pool A
Fukuoka, Japan (Sports Network) - Alfredo Despaigne went 2-for-4 and delivered a key three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning to lead Cuba to a 6-3 win over host Japan in a World Baseball Classic Pool A matchup.
Yasmany Tomas had a solo homer earlier in the game for Cuba, which finishes atop the Pool A bracket after completing round-robin play with a 3-0 record. The Cubans will next take on The Netherlands in Tokyo in Friday's second round.
Jose Abreu added two hits, including an RBI single, while Jose Fernandez ended 2-for-3 with a run scored in the victory. Wilber Perez (1-0) struck out three while scattering three hits over the first three innings to pick up the win.
Despaigne's blast off Takeru Iwamura gave Cuba a seemingly comfortable 6-0 lead, but Japan put together a three-run ninth highlighted by RBI singles by Hisayoshi Chono and Hirokazu Ibata before its rally ultimately fell short.
Japan brought the tying run to the plate after Ibata's two-out base hit off Vladimir Garcia brought home Yuichi Honda, but Garcia struck out Ryoji Aikawa with two men on to end the threat.
Ibata and Sho Nakata each collected to hits for two-time defending WBC champion Japan, which had already clinched a spot in the second round by winning its first two Pool A games. Kenji Otonari (0-1) was dealt the loss despite allowing just one run, which came on Tomas' homer, over three innings of work.
The Japanese squad will go up against Pool B champion Chinese Taipei Thursday in Tokyo.
03/06 09:27:19 ET