Big-hitting Cuba power past Taiwan

Cuba players delivered long balls and crucial hits with men in scoring position to defeat Taiwan 6-2 in Taichung last night, the first warm-up ahead of next month’s World Baseball Classic.

Left-handed pitcher Chen Kuan-yu, of the Chiba Lotte Marines, started the game for Taiwan, while Cuba countered with right-handed Yosbany Torres.

In the second inning, Taiwan first baseman Hsu Chi-hung hit a double after two outs, before catcher Lin Kun-shen opened the hosts’ account as his RBI-single drove in Hsu.

However, Cuba, known as the Red Lightning, had too much quality to be denied and they mounted a rally in the fifth frame against Taiwan’s second pitcher Tsai Min-chin.

With two men on base, outfielder Roel Santos ripped a bouncer down the line for a triple, scoring both players for two runs. Shortstop Alexander Ayala then pushed Santos home with a double as the visitors took a 3-1 lead.

In the next inning, Cuba catcher Yosbany Alarcon silenced the home crowd when he tagged Taiwan’s middle reliever Chen Yun-wen by smashing the ball into the stands to take a 4-1 lead.

The sides traded runs in the late innings as Cuba ran out 6-2 victors.

Taiwan did have a good chance to level the score late in the contest when they had the bases loaded, but outfielder Chiang Chih-hsieng failed with his at-bat, hitting into a double play to end the inning.

“The pressure is enormous to take charge of the Cuba national squad because our people expect the team to do well, but now I have to work with the new generation of young players,” Cuba manager Carlos Marti said. “It’s good to get this win against Taiwan, as you also have a good team.”

Game 2 of the series is scheduled for this evening, also in Taichung.

During the contest, several spectators caused a commotion by unveiling a “Taiwan is Taiwan” banner and shouting slogans calling for the nation’s independence before they were removed by security staff.

The World Baseball Classic starts in the second week of next month.

Taiwan are in Pool A in Seoul together with South Korea, the Netherlands and Israel, with the top two teams advancing to the next round.

Cuba are in Pool B in Tokyo along with Japan, Australia and China.

The US, Canada, Colombia and the Dominican Republic are in Pool C, which is being hosted in Miami, while Pool D, being played in Jalisco, Mexico, features the hosts, Puerto Rico, Venezuela and Italy.