TOKYO – 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 Phiadelphia 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.
MEXICO 10, CANADA 3
PHOENIX (AP) — Randy Arozarena had two doubles and five RBIs, Rowdy Tellez added a two-run single and solo homer, and Mexico pulled away late from Canada to earn a spot in the quarterfinals.
Mexico started the tournament with a surprising loss to Colombia in Group C at Chase Field but rallied with three straight wins, beating the U.S., Britain and Canada.
José Urquidy gave up two runs over four innings, striking out five to earn the win. Arozarena — the 2021 AL Rookie of the Year for the Tampa Bay Rays — hit a bases-clearing double in the sixth that broke the game open, giving Mexico a 6-2 lead.
Canada leadoff hitter Edouard Julien had two hits and an RBI and catcher Bo Naylor hit a solo homer. Rob Zastryzny took the loss after giving up three runs over two innings.
Canada played without Los Angeles Dodgers star first baseman Freddie Freeman, who left Tuesday's game because of a hamstring injury.
VENEZUELA 5, ISRAEL 1
MIAMI (AP) — Eugenio Suárez homered, singled twice and had three RBIs and starter Jesús Luzardo struck out five in four scoreless innings to lead Venezuela, which already had clinched the Group D title and a quarterfinal berth.
Ronald Acuña Jr. had two singles while Eduardo Escobar also went deep for Venezuela, which finished with 10 hits.
Venezuela burst to a three-run lead in the first against Robert Stock. Acuña broke out of a tournament-starting 1-for-11 skid with an RBI single and Suárez hit a two-run single.
Escobar’s solo shot in the fourth made it 4-0 and Suárez connected with a leadoff drive in the sixth.
Jakob Goldfarb’s RBI single in the seventh snapped a 22-inning scoreless streak for Israel.
Venezuela joined Japan as the only group winners to finish unbeaten.
Israel finished 1-3 after reaching the second round in the 2017 tournament.
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