HAVANA TIMES, March 12 — Mexico (2-1) and Cuba (2-0) square off in the final WBC first round game on Thursday night. Both teams have already qualified for the second round of double elimination play starting Sunday in San Diego, California.
Ciro Silvino Licea is expected to start for Cuba and Pablo Ortega for Mexico.
Mexico had lost its first game of the 2nd World Baseball Classic 17-7 to Australia and after breezing 14-3 over South Africa had a return do-or-die match with the Aussies on Wednesday.
Australia was coming off a 5-4 loss to Cuba where they held a 4-2 lead late in the game.
However, the results couldn’t have been more different than their first match up as Mexico won 16-1 and Australia was sent packing for home.
The blow out showed that the Mexicans have gelled and their 37 runs in three games put scouts on notice that they boast some hard hitting bats.
On Wednesday right fielder Karim Garcia went 4-for-4 off the Austrialian pitching with two home runs and four RBIs. Brothers Adrian and Edgar Gonzalez had 3 hits and 4 RBIs between them.
After a scoreless first two innings the Mexicans scored four in the third, seven in the fourth, one in the fifth and four in the sixth, when the game was called on the mercy rule.
Thursday night’s Cuba-Mexico game will determine which club leads the pool into the final-eight play. The winner will play Japan on Sunday in San Diego to open round two and the loser will face Korea, both extremely tough teams.
Japan is the defending champion from the 2006 World Baseball Classic, defeating Cuba in the final game. Korea beat Cuba to win the gold medal in the Beijing 2008 Olympics.
In the other two groups with games on Wednesday: Venezuela (3-1) avenged an early 12-5 loss to the United States (2-1) winning 5-3 to take first place in Group C.
The South Americans will now play The Netherlands (2-2) in their second round opener in Miami. Team USA will have to play the undefeated Puerto Rico (3-0) in their first game. Both those match-ups are set for Saturday.
For in depth articles about Team Cuba at the World Baseball Classic don’t miss Peter C. Bjarkman’s Havana Times WBC diary at: http://havanatimes.org/?p=5062