By the lofty standards of Cuban international baseball history, this is not a Cuban team to remember.
There is no pitcher who compares to the success of Pedro Lazo, Cuba’s current pitching coach and living legend. Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert are not Omar Linares or Yuli Gurriel.
But that’s no matter because this Cuban team has made its own spot in Cuban baseball history. Cuba has returned to the World Baseball Classic semifinals for the first time since the first WBC in 2006, marking a return to the semifinals for the team that was international baseball royalty for so many years.
Since the winner would have four days until it played again after traveling from Japan to the United States, the format allowed both teams to approach this one game, win-or-go-home quarterfinal with an all hands on deck approach. That suited Cuba better than Australia because it had a deeper pitching staff of power arms. Cuba’s biggest strength as a pitching staff is that it had a trio of pitchers who were among the better relievers in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball league in 2022. Cuba was able to throw all three of them–Yariel Rodriguez, Livan Moinello and Raidel Martinez–at Australia while mixing in Roenis Elias as well. experienced hard-throwing relievers in one game, knowing that all of them will have time to rest and recover before March 19’s semifinal game.
Rodriguez started the game for Cuba, but Australia jumped out to an early lead against him on a Dixon Wingrove RBI single in the second. Cuba quickly answered as Roel Santos walked, Yoan Moncada doubled and Luis Robert Jr. scored Santos on a ground out in the third.
Cuba then took a lead it would never relinquish in the fifth inning, once again with the top of the lineup leading the way. Santos, the team’s leadoff hitter, singled, Moncada walked and Robert was hit by a pitch to lead the bases with no outs. Alfredo Degaigne drove in Santos on a sacrifice fly and Yoelkis Gilbert drove in Mocada and Robert on an RBI single, giving Cuba a 4-1 lead.
Wingrove cut the lead to one, 4-3, with a two-run home run off of Elias in the sixth inning, but Cuba’s bullpen meant that was it for Australia. Moinelo threw a scoreless eighth inning and Martinez struck out two of the three batters he faced in the ninth, including Australia cleanup hitter Darryl George to end the game.
Rodriguez was the only Cuban pitcher to throw more than 50 pitches in the game, so the rest of the staff will be available by WBC pitcher…
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