World Baseball Classic: Cuba, Japan advance to 2nd round
Teams will play Israel, Netherlands in Tokyo
Outfielder Alfredo Despaigne hit a grand slam in the fifth inning Friday in Tokyo to lead Cuba over Australia 4-3 and into the second round of the World Baseball Classic.
Despaigne, who played for the Chiba Lotte Marines in Japan the last three seasons, connected off Australia pitcher Lachlan Wells for his second homer of the tournament.
Must’ve thought he popped it up. 😉<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WBC2017?src=hash">#WBC2017</a> <a href="https://t.co/mPt1gRYLME">pic.twitter.com/mPt1gRYLME</a>—@WBCBaseball
"I don't swing to be a home run king," Despaigne said. "I try to drive in runs. I'm so happy to contribute to the national team."
Despaigne homered three times in six games in the 2013 World Baseball Classic. His grand slam Friday came off a 2-1 fastball Wells left in the middle of the plate.
Also, Seiji Kobayashi and Sho Nakata both hit two-run homers as Japan beat China 7-1 to finish Pool B with a 3-0 record.
Two-time champion Japan will open the second round against the Netherlands on Sunday. Cuba finished Pool B with a 2-1 record and will face Israel at Tokyo Dome on Sunday. Australia has played in the WBC all four times but has never made it out of the first round.
"We out-hit them, we out-played them," Australia manager Jon Deeble said. "The only place we didn't win was the scoreboard. They [Cuba] have a knack of doing that."
Puerto Rico silences Venezuela
Carlos Correa, Yadier Molina and T.J. Rivera homered, and Puerto Rico beat Venezuela 11-0 in seven innings Friday night in Group D of the World Baseball Classic.
Correa connected for a solo shot and Molina added a two-run drive in the sixth inning. Rivera belted another two-run homer in Puerto's Rico's six-run seventh, finishing the game.
In the World Baseball Classic, a team gets the win with a difference of 10 or more runs after five innings.
Seth Lugo, Giovanni Soto and Joe Jimenez combined on a three-hitter. Lugo, a right-hander for the New York Mets, struck out three in 5 1/3 innings.
"Seth was the key, he was very efficient and he took us to the fifth inning and that gave us a chance to be more aggressive with the bullpen," Puerto Rico manager Edwin Rodriguez said. "But we also have Correa who did everything, he stole bases, was very good at third base, he also hit a home run and gave us quality at-bats, we knew that we had the kind of team where someone is going to step up, we had a very good team effort tonight."
Miguel Cabrera, Odubel Herrera and Ender Inciarte had the only hits for Venezuela. Seattle Mariners right-hander Felix Hernandez allowed two runs, one earned, in 2 2/3 innings.
"I have never lost like this but we need to stay upbeat for the next game," Cabrera said.
Puerto Rico takes on Mexico in its second WBC game on Saturday. Venezuela will play against Italy.