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WBC Roundup: Cuba slips past Brazil, 2-0 starts for Japan and Chinese Taipei

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Cuba's catcher Erier Sanchez talks with winning pitcher Ismel Jimenez. (AP)

Cuba 5, Brazil 2: Another respectable showing for the valiant underdogs from Brazil. In fact, starting pitcher Andre Rienzo held the heavily favored Cuban team hitless into the fifth inning, but that's the where the wheels came loose after he issued a leadoff walk and allowed a one out single. Cuba would cash both of those runs to end Rienzo’s night and then strike for three more in the sixth to make it 5-0.

Cuban starter Ismel Jimenez tossed four and two-thirds scoreless to earn the win on the mound. Raciel Iglesias picked up the easy save. Offensively, Frederich Cepeda and Erisbel Arruebarruena paced the attack with two hits apiece. Arruebarruena added two RBI out of the No. 9 spot.

Brazil would strike for two in the sixth to make things interesting, but lost out on another scoring chance one inning later when first base umpire Carlos Rey ruled that Juan Carlos Muniz missed first base on his leadoff double. It was an awkward turn around the bag, but replays showed pretty clearly that Muniz right toe kicked the bag on the approach. Bad call. Tough break. And that was all she wrote.

The loss drops Brazil to 0-2 in the tournament and puts them in a near impossible position to advance. They'll give it a go anyway Tuesday morning at 3 a.m. ET when they face off against China. For Cuba, this was their tournament opener. They'll look to go 2-0 against China at 2:30 a.m. ET on Monday.

Chinese Taipei 8, Netherlands 3: Chinese Taipei jumps out to a 2-0 start in Pool B after handing the very competitive Dutch team. In fact, Netherlands looked like they may be poised for pull off another upset after plating three runs in the second. But Taipei countered quickly for one in their half and then really kicked into gear in a four-run fourth.

After Chih-Sheng Lin walked and Szu-Chi Chou doubled to start the rally, Yung-Chi Chen singled home one to make it 3-2. Another walk and a Hung-Yu Lin hit by pitch with the bases loaded finally evened things up. Back-to-back sacrifice flies from Yen-Wen Kuo and Dai-Kang Yang rounded out the scoring in the frame.

Taipei would add three insurance runs in the sixth, with the big blow coming on a Dai-Kang Yang two-run blast. This was all in support Wei-Lun Pan, who relieved a struggling Yao-Lin Wang in the second and ended up tossing four and two-thirds scoreless for the win.

With a second round berth all but locked up, Chinese Taipei will take a day off before battling Korea at 6:30 a.m. ET Tuesday morning. Netherlands moves on to a pivotal game against Australia at 10:30 p.m. ET on Monday.

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Yoshio Itoi celebrates his key hit in Japan's victory. (AP)

Japan 5, China 2: Perhaps inspired by Bobby Valentine’s ceremonial first pitch (or perhaps just really good), the two-time defending champions from Japan moved to 2-0 themselves with a convincing win over China.

The big story here was the starting pitching effort from Kenta Maeda. The 25-year-old right-hander tossed five shutout innings that would best be described as dominant. He'd strike out six while allowing only one hit and one walk. Japan's bullpen was also solid, only cracking in the ninth inning when the game was decided.

The reason it was already decided was Japan's big four-run rally in the fifth. Yoshio Itoi delivered the key hit there, clearing the bases with a double. Seiichi Uchikawa and Sho Nakata were the other offensive stars with two hits and one RBI each.

As we mentioned, Japan now improves to 2-0 and is strongly positioned to advance. They'll now hook up with Cuba Wednesday morning at 5:00 a.m. ET to wrap up Pool A. China, on the other hand, has an uphill battle after losing their opener. Cuba will be up next for them as well at 2:30 a.m. ET on Monday.

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