FUKUOKA, Japan—Brazil kept the game competitive early for the second straight day, but the bullpen couldn’t hold back Cuba in a 5-2 loss to Cuba in the World Baseball Classic, dropping Brazil to 0-2 and putting Cuba at 1-0 in Pool A.
White Sox righthander Andre Rienzo held Brazil scoreless through four innings, but Cuba got on the board in the fifth inning and continued doing damage against Brazil’s bullpen, after Rienzo had surpassed his WBC-mandated first-round pitch count of 65.
In the fifth inning, after second baseman Jose Fernandez drew a walk and catcher Eriel Sanchez struck out on a bunt attempt, shortstop Erisbel Arruebarruena singled to center field, sending Fernandez to third. Facing center fielder Guillermo Heredia, Rienzo induced a ground ball to shortstop Marcio Tanaka in what what likely would have been an inning-ending double play, but Arruebarruena was running on the pitch and beat the flip to second base. Heredia was out at first base, but Fernandez scored from third base to give Cuba its first run.
With Rienzo having hit his pitch count, righthander Ernesto Noris—a 40-year-old Cuban emigre—came on in relief and surrendered a line-drive single to left field by right fielder Alexei Bell, scoring Arruebarruena to give Cuba a 2-0 lead. Cuba tacked on three more runs in the sixth inning, with Arruebarruena driving in two of the runs on a single to left field.
Cuban starter Ismel Jimenez struck out six with no walks and four hits over 4 2/3 scoreless innings. Brazil had chances to score early in the game but couldn’t capitalize. “We had runners on base early in the ballgame,” manager Barry Larkin said, “but Jimenez made pitches when he had to.”
In the second inning, left fielder Tiago Magalhaes hit a one-out double to center field, then advanced to third on the single by right fielder Juan Carlos Muniz 9also of Cuban descent). Brazil couldn’t push a run across the plate, however, as catcher Diego Franca struck out swinging and Muniz, 37, got thrown out stealing second to end the inning.
In the third inning, second baseman Felipe Burin grounded a two-out single up the middle, then moved ahead to second base on a line-drive single to center field by third baseman Leonardo Reginatto (Rays). First baseman Daniel Matsumoto put a charge into a ball over the head of Heredia in center field, but Heredia tracked it down for the final out of the inning.
Arruebarruena finished 2-for-4 a run scored and drove in two runs, while Cuban DH Frederich Cepeda went 2-for-4 with a walk and scored a run. The 32-year-old Cepeda, a Cuban national team stalwart playing in his third WBC, is now 24-for-54 (.444) all-time in WBC play.
Matsomoto went 2-for-4 and drove in a run for Brazil, which scored two unearned runs in the sixth to close the gap. Reliever Raciel Iglesias struck out five in three scoreless innings for Cuba to shut the door and earn the save.