Cuba beats Australia, reaches 1st WBC semifinal since 2006
Cuba beats Australia, reaches 1st WBC semifinal since 2006 originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
TOKYO (AP) -- Cuba earned a 7,500-mile flight to Miami for a trip to the World Baseball Classic semifinals for the first time since 2006.
“Cuban baseball fans are so emotional right now. They have been waiting for a long time at the moment,” manager Armando Johnson said after a 4-3 win over Australia on Wednesday night. “This is the new page, new chapter.”
Alfredo Despaigne hit a tiebreaking sacrifice fly and Yoelkis Guibert followed with a two-run single in three-run fifth inning.
Using current major leaguers for the first time at the WBC, Cuba plays on Sunday in Marlins Park against the winner of a quarterfinal between Venezuela and the second-place team from Group C: Canada, Colombia, Mexico or the U.S.
Former Philadelphia Phillies prospect Rixon Wingrove, who led Australia with seven RBIs in the tournament, hit a go-ahead RBI sngle in the second and had a two-run homer in the sixth off the Chicago Cubs' Roenis Elías. Australia got two on later in the sixth before Elías retired Milwaukee Brewers prospect Alex Hall on a flyout.
Elías pitched a perfect seventh, Liván Moinelo worked around a pair of walks in a hitless eighth by striking out Ulrich Bojarski and retiring Tim Kennelly on an inning-ending flyout. Raidel Martinez pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for the save, striking out Darryl George on the eighth pitch of the at-bat for the final out.
Before a crowd of 35,061 at the Tokyo Dome, Luis Robert tied the score for Cuba with a run-scoring groundout in the third.
Cuba, which lost the 2006 final to Japan, had been eliminated in the second round of the previous three WBCs. The Cubans won their third straight game in this tournament after losing their first two.
Australia advanced past the group stage for the first time.
“Basically this trip is redefining Australian baseball back home and hopefully it changes the conversation,” George said. “People don’t really expect a lot from us.”
Yoán Moncada of the Chicago White Sox had two hits and two walks, and is hitting .421 wth five RBIs. Moncada sparked the third with a one-out double off Mitch Neunborn, who had walked Roel Santos leading off.
Winner Miguel Romero, the second of five Cuban pitchers, allowed one hit in 1 2/3 scoreless innings.
Santos singled leading off the fifth against loser Josh Guyer, who walked Moncada. Sam Holland walked Robert, and Cuba went ahead on the sacrifice fly by Despaigne, who is hitting .412 (7 for 17) with four RBIs and is the WBC career leader with seven homers. The 36-year-old outfielder and designated hitter is a fan favorite in Japan after playing for the Pacific League's Chiba Lotte Marines from 2014-16 and Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks from 2017 through last season.
Former major leaguer Yoenis Céspedes left the team before the game for unspecified personal reasons, the Cuban Baseball Federation said.
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