Still Breathing: Cuba Crushes Panama in Do-or-Die Game

The Cuban national team kept its hopes high by steamrolling over Panama

By Jerry Díaz

Cuba and Panama faced each other on Friday, March 10 at the Intercontinental Stadium of Taichung. The challenge corresponding to the third day of the World Classic came with the Caribbeans without a win in two games and the Central Americans having split their first two games.

Cuba started ahead and Panama came from behind

The visiting Antilleans started off aggressively on offense. Roel Santos singled on a bunt and advanced to second on a stolen base after two outs given up by Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert Jr.

It was Alfredo Despaigne’s turn. The Santiago native hit a 72 mph curveball off left-handed starter Andy Otero and drew a line drive through the zone between the center and right fielders. With the double, Santos scored and Despaigne settled at second, where he stayed when Ariel Martínez struck out for the third out of the first inning.

In the second, the Cuban team increased the lead with consecutive doubles by Yadir Drake and Yadil Mujica. The latter’s was much disputed by Panama’s manager. The hit hit hit just over the left field line and was initially called a foul. However, after the replay review, the double was awarded to Mujica and therefore the run scored for Cuba.

The second frame was productive for Panama. José Ramos singled in the first run due to an error by the shortstop Yoan Moncada. The sixth in the order Rubén Tejada homered against Cuban starter Ronald Bolaños. The hit went over the fences in left field.

Thus, he erased the difference and evened the score.

The Panamanians continued to score and took the lead with a bases-loaded single by their first batter Allen Córdoba.

Cuba scored nine in two innings against Panama and set a record for the WBC

The sixth inning was a big one for the Cuban team. It started with a single by Erisbel Arruebarruena. The bases were loaded by a beanball to Ariel Martinez and a free pass to Yoelkis Guibert. Yadir Drake’s third hit of the afternoon scored for the Cubans and kept the bases loaded. Yadil Mujica drove in the tying run with a sacrifice fly.

Roel Santos gave up the first out and it was Yoan Moncada’s turn with two on base. The Cienfuegos major-leaguer connected a hit to right that drove in the run that gave the Antilleans the lead. Luis Robert Jr. widened the gap with another single to right.

Cuba’s production continued in the next inning. Once again, El Grillo led off with a single. Ariel Martínez hit the ball well, but it went straight to the left fielder. The bases were loaded again by Guibert’s hit and Drake’s walk.

Mujica reached four RBIs with a pull hit, Moncada added two more with a single to left and Luis Robert drove number five of the inning with a ground ball to third.

Cuba scored four in the sixth and five in the seventh. They went from being down four to two to comfortably dominating the scoreboard.

They totaled 21 hits, which represents a record for the Cuban team in World Baseball Classic competition. The previous record dates back to 2009 when they accumulated 17 against Mexico in the 2nd edition of the tournament.

On the mound, Miguel Romero stood out with three solid innings without runs and four strikeouts.

From the batter’s box, almost everyone was outstanding. Mujica drove in four, Yadir Drake had four hits, Yoan Moncada batted in another four with a trio of hits, Robert Jr. went 6-2 with 2 RBI, Despaigne also doubled and Roel Santos scored three with three hits.

The final score was 13-4.

This is Cuba’s second victory over Panama in the history of the World Classic. The previous one was when they shared a group in 2006.

The next game for the Panamanians will be on Saturday against Italy while the Cubans will have a rest, returning to the field on Sunday against Taiwan.

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