Dice-K Cools Cuban Bats

HAVANA TIMES, March 15 — A renovated Cuban lineup was no match Sunday for Japan’s star pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka who threw six scoreless innings and struck out eight to lead his team to a 6-0 win in round two play of the World Baseball Classic II.

Dice-K had an 18-3 record last season with the Boston Red Sox and led Japan to a win over Cuba in the final game of the first Classic in 2006 when he was the MVP with three wins. He is now 3-0 against Cuba in international competition.

Cuba was coming off scoring 29 runs during its three games of first round play when it was undefeated against Mexico, South Africa and Australia. However, as expected the quality of competition is a notch higher in the second round, where the island’s team is now forced to win two consecutive games or head home to Havana.

Japan hit seven Cuban pitchers for 12 hits including 11 singles and a double that Alfredo Despaigne lost in the sun. Aroldis Chapman was the losing pitcher giving up three runs in 2.1 innings. The 20-year-old sensation from Holguin didn’t have his best control and the Japanese weren’t forgiving.

Cuba had two runners on base in the first and third innings but failed to score. In all, Matsuzaka and three relievers struck out 12 Cubans and the defense turned two timely double plays in the fifth and eighth innings.

Japan’s third baseman Shuichi Murata had two RBIs to lead his team. The offense bright spots for Cuba were left fielder Frederich Cepeda who went 3-for-4 with a double and two singles and center fielder Yoennis Cespedes who had two hits in four turns at bat.

A total of 20, 179 fans attended the game at Petco Park in San Diego.

Later Sunday night Mexico plays Korea in the other Pool 1 WBC round two match-up. The loser will play Cuba in a must-win game on Monday night at 11:00 p.m. ET. The winner of the Korea-Mexico game will play Japan on Tuesday.

The other game on Sunday was in Pool 2 between Team USA and The Netherlands, played in Miami. In the fifth inning the USA leads 7-0. Puerto Rico and Venezuela, who won their initial games on Saturday will face off on Monday.

To have a look at what Cubans back in Havana are saying about the World Baseball Classic: http://havanatimes.org/?p=6147