Santiago de Veraguas (Panama) - Cuba remains undefeated in the World Cup. The eigth win in a row of the caribbean power may result fatal to the defending champions. Cuba beat (8-7) Team USA, that has now a 1-3 record. At this stage, three wins in the remaining games may not be enough for the World Champions to have a chance to play for the gold.
It was a game dominated by the two line ups: Cuba got 17 hits and Team USA responded with 11. Cuba needed only two pitches to get to Team USA starter Jeff Marquez, but the defending champions were a nightmare for cuban hard throwing starter Freddy Alvarez, who couldn't cope with Team USA discipline at the plate. It's interesting to notice that Jadier Pedroso earned a spectacular save relying almost only on off speed stuff.
Cuba was off a brilliant start. During Team USA first at bat, phenom shortstop Erisbel Arruebarruena got lead off Brett Jackson, who had hit a sharp liner in the gapbetween shortstop and third baseman and with a runner at first, second baseman Yuliesky Gourriel went all the way behind the bag to flip the ball for a force out to second. The second base umpire punished Arruebarruena for leaving tha bag too early.
In the bottom half of the frame Cuba got immediately to right hander Jeff Marquez (who has three appearances in the American League for the Yankees this season) with five base hits in a row: back to back grounders in the gap between third and shortstop by Rusney Castillo and Alexei Bell, a line up the middle by Frederich Cepeda and another line drive to left by Alfredo Despaigne. With two runners on, the bases loaded and two runs on the scoreboard, il looked like Marquez would not survivethe first inning. But Jose Abreu hit into a double play that scored Cepeda from third, but helped Marquez get into the grove and survive the inning.
Team USA got on the scoreboard in the second, when third baseman Tommy Mendonca (who hit 25 homers at AA for the Texas Rangers) turned a 2-1 fastball by Cuba starter Freddy Alvarez into a rocket that took off in the Santiago night well over the right field fence.
Alvarez wass saved with an outstanding play by Cuba third baseman Michel Enriquez on a bullet hit by catcher Tuffy Gosewish, but didn't survive the third. Jackson led off with a hit up the middle and touched second on a pick off attempt that Alvarez sent into the USA dug out.
After a duel, second baseman Joe Thurston walked and, with one out, first baseman Matt Clark, took Alvarez deep. Bell made the play for the second out, but runners advanced. Carroll sent them both home with a base hit to left and Alvarez left. Mendonca welcomed lefty Norberto Gonzalez with a double off the wall in left field that scored Carroll and gave Team USA the lead.
The tie didn't last long. Cepeda led off the bottom half of the inning with a hit and Despaigne hit a towering homer to left that made it 5-4. With one out, Abreu reached on a base hit, advanced on a hard grounder hit to second baseman and scored on a base hit by catcher Ariel Pestano. On the throw home, Pestano reached second and scored on a single up the middle by Arruebarruena.
Team USA went actually to the bullpen in the bottom of the fourth and gave the call to Chuck Fick.
In the fifth, the defending champions forced Gonzalez to leave. With two outs, Clark hit safely to rightfield and Carroll followed him with a two base line drive to second. Mendonca got his third hit of the night and made it a one run game for right hander Vychoandri Odelin, who took the mound as the third cuban pitcher of the night.
Odelin left in the seventh, after walking left fielder Aj Pollock, the lead off hitter. The ball went to right hander Yadier Pedroso, who came out of the inning with a couple of strike outs on his nasty fork ball.
In the bottom of the seventh Team USA gavce the ball to right hander Peter Andrelczyk, a AA and AAA pitcher in the Marlins organization. The newconer got Cepeda on a ground ball to second and was taken deep by Despaigne. Center fielder Danks Jordan ran all the way to the wall to make a great flying catch. But Cuba reached on a swinging bunt by Gourriel. Andrelczyk got to the ball on his knees, made a good throw to first but, according to the umpire, Clark was not on the bag when the runner touched base. Then it was the turn of Abreu to take Andrelczyk deep, well over the head of Jordan for an RBI double.
Odelin struck out Mendonca (the first time in the night the third baseman was put out) to begin the eigth and got a quick second out on a grounder to second by Gosewisch. Jordan singled to right to keep the at bat alive and shortstop Jonny Mercer took Pedroso deep for a double to left. Despaigne got to the ball in the corner, but bubbled it and allowed Jordan to score. With the tying run at second, Pedroso got Jackson on a huge swing on a off speed pitch outside.
In the ninth the righthansder Pedroso didn't need any help against the heart of Team USA lineup, made of left handers. He got Pollok and Thurston swingin on his fork ball and Clark swingin on a two seam fastball, showing an outsanding command of the outside part of the strike zone.