By Circles Robinson
HAVANA TIMES, March 13 — Mexico is going to have to improve greatly if it wants to play with the big boys. After a 16-4 thrashing from Cuba on Thursday night, the team that had scored 37 runs in its first three games of the 2nd World Baseball Classic was held to five hits.
When Mexico took a 2-1 lead in the third and then 3-2 in the fourth, it looked like the game would be much closer and the home crowd was more than enthusiastic. However, the roof caved in the bottom of the fourth when Cuba scored five. The islanders then busted out with nine more in the seventh to end the game on the mercy rule.
Once again the long ball was present in the thin air of the 7,200 ft. high Foro Sol Stadium in Mexico City. Mexico had three homers, including back to back solo shots by Freddie Sandoval and Oscar Robles in the third against Luis Miguel Rodriguez, and another by Karim Garcia in the fifth of Yunieski Maya.
The Cubans were sparked by a two-run blast by Yulieski Gourriel in the third and three-run homers by both Ariel Pestano and Frederich Cepeda in the seventh. Michel Enriquez and Yoennis Cespedes both had three hits, Enriquez driving in three runs and Cespedes scoring three.
In all Cuba had 17 hits and used six pitchers as manager Higinio Velez wanted everyone who hadn’t thrown in the Classic to get some action. Yulieski Gonzalez picked up the win going two innings allow one run, on one hit with two walks and three strikeouts. The Cuban pitchers had some control problems allowing seven walks to match their seven strikeouts.
Cuba now faces Japan —a rematch of the 2006 1st World Baseball Classic championship game— on Sunday afternoon (4:00 ET) at Petco Park in San Diego, California. Mexico plays Korea at the same venue (11:00 ET).
The other group has Venezuela playing The Netherlands at 1:00 ET and the United States against Puerto Rico at 8:00 ET, both games on Saturday in Miami, Florida.
Like the first round of the WBC, the second is double elimination. The top two teams of each group will then move on to Los Angeles for the Semifinal games.
For in depth coverage of Team Cuba in the Classic read Peter C. Bjarkman’s Havana Times WBC Diary: