WBC Baseball Australia Cuba
Cuban players celebrate after defeating Australia in their World Baseball Classic quarterfinal game at the Tokyo Dome on Wednesday. Photo: AP/Eugene Hoshiko

Cuba beats Australia to reach World Baseball Classic semifinal


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.


PHOENIX - 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.


MIAMI - 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.

© Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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Of course its Cuba..

Well done guys, go to the finals..

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Cuba beat Australia?

I guess anyone can beat Australia nowadays.

-7 ( +1 / -8 )

It was a great game.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I guess anyone can beat Australia nowadays

Well, they were 3-1 in the group stage. Not bad though 2 games were gimme games, beating Korea was a good feat.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Wehpa to Cuba

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Good job, Latin America!

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I guess anyone can beat Australia nowadays.

What a casual. Why do people on JT insist on commenting on things they know nothing about?

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Using current major leaguers for the first time at the WBC, Cuba plays on Sunday in Marlins Park

Cuba is using MLB players for the first time because their best players had escaped Cuba to earn money in the MLB. But it's a contentious issue - many Cuban MLB players don't want to play for Cuba or not invited by the Cuban federation. For example, Tampa Bay Ray star player Arozarena, born and raised in Cuba, chose to play for Mexico instead, where he resided briefly after escaping Cuba


This year's World Baseball Classic represents a seismic shift for Cuba, which included current major league players on the roster for the first time ever. It led to the additions of Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert, central figures for the Chicago White Sox. But Arozarena, who has spoken openly in recent years about representing his adopted country, represents a litany of Cuban-born stars who were either not invited or not interested or, in some cases, both, a list that also includes Jose Abreu, Yordan Alvarez, Yasmani Grandal and Aroldis Chapman, among numerous others.

CUBA'S DECISION TO accept players who fled was surprising considering its sensibilities but predictable considering its circumstances. "It's a reflection of the crises in which Cuba finds itself, in all aspects of life," said Roberto Gonzalez Echevarria. "Things have deteriorated, and so has baseball."

Cuba, which dominated on the Olympic stage throughout the 1990s and 2000s, possesses a rich history of baseball excellence. But massive defections have diminished the level of talent on the island and brought with it numerous disappointments on the international stage. The inclusion of major league players was considered a much-needed boost.

"Unfortunately in Cuba everything is mixed with its politics," veteran infielder Aledmys Diaz said in Spanish. "The [Cuban Baseball Federation] is part of the direction of the Cuban government. In order for you to represent them, or be part of that, you have to think the way they do. That's a problem that Cuba has, and it's what differentiates it from other countries."

For some, it meant taking part would require forgetting the reasons they left in the first place. "There is no freedom in Cuba," said Yale professor Roberto Gonzalez Echevarria, author of a book about the history of Cuban baseball. "They called us traitors, they said we were a disgrace to our country, and now you want us to play for you -- and we don't even get an apology?" said a Cuban-born major league player who did not want to be publicly identified. "We don't forget. I'm not going to forget, at least. I have my pride."

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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