Cuba blitzed Team USA starter Jeff Marquez (Yankees) for seven runs in three innings, then held off repeated American rallies to stay unbeaten in the 2011 World Cup in Panama. The 8-7 victory Tuesday night keeps Cuba as the favorite to reach the gold-medal game while dropping the U.S. to 4-4 overall but 1-4 in the Cup's unique second-round standings.
The first five hitters in Cuba's lineup—Rusney Castillo and national team veterans Alexei Bell, Frederich Cepeda, Alfredo Despaigne and Yulieski Gourriel—all singled to start the bottom of the first, and the Cubans took a 3-0 lead.
Team USA rallied quickly against Cuban starter Freddy Alvarez, taking a 4-3 lead in the top of the third. Tommy Mendonca (Rangers) homered in the second, and a two-run single by Brett Carroll (Red Sox) tied the game. Mendonca's double gave the U.S. its only lead of the game, and Mendonca had a big night, going 3-for-4 with four RBIs.
But Cuba had too much offense, especially with Marquez on the mound. The veteran sinkerballer gave up 11 hits in three innings, as well as seven runs as Cuba put up a four-spot in the third. Despaigne gave Cuba the lead back with a two-run homer to make it 5-4, and Ariel Pestano and Erisbel Barruena stroked RBIs singles later in the frame.
In all, Cuba out-hit the U.S. 17-11, overcoming three errors and Mendonca's heroics, which included a two-run singled in the fifth that made it 7-6. Chuckie Fick (Nationals) held the Cubans scoreless for three innings, but Pete Andrelczyk (Marlins) gave up what turned out to be a crucial insurance run in the seventh on a two-out single by Gourriel and a run-scoring double by Juan Abreu.
Yadier Pedroso was the game's top pitcher, giving up an unearned run in the eighth but otherwise allowing just two hits and striking out seven Americans in just three innings to earn his third save of the Cup.
The loss makes it virtually impossible for the U.S. to play for the World Cup championship, which it won in 2007 and 2009. At 4-4, the U.S. is tied for sixth (and last) place in the eight-team second round, with South Korea and Venezuela, its opponent Wednesday. The Americans also still have to play Australia and South Korea, and the teams with the four top records in second-round play make the medal round.
Also, catcher Travis d'Arnaud (Blue Jays) has left the team with a left thumb injury, leaving Tuffy Gosewisch (Phillies) as the team's lone catcher. The U.S. team will replace d'Arnaud for the next tournament it plays at the Pan Am Games in Mexico later this month.
Elsewhere in the Cup:
• Australia won its fifth-straight game, beating Canada 7-0 behind Cubs farmhand Ryan Searle, who reached Double-A in 2011. The 22-year-old Searle struck out six and walked one in 7 1/3 innings for the victory, while Australia jumped on Nick Bucci (Brewers), who didn't pitch through three innings and left with "discomfort in his throwing arm," according to a Baseball Canada release. Left fielder Tim Kennelly (Braves) doubled and homered for the Aussies, who lost their first three games via shutout but now have a 2-2 medal-round record and are tied for third place with Canada and Panama.
• The Netherlands moved into second place alone with a 5-1 win against South Korea behind eight scoreless innings by Tom Stuifbergen (Twins), while Sharlon Schoop (Giants) and Kalian Sams hit three- and two-run homers, respectively. The Dutch moved to 3-1 in the second round as Stuifbergen, who finished the year in Triple-A, struck out two while allowing six hits and a walk. He got out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the fourth but cruised otherwise, as he has the entire tournament. Stuifbergen now has pitched 17 scoreless innings in Cup with two starts and a relief appearance, allowing 12 hits and two walks while striking out eight.
• Panama improved to 2-2 by pounding neighboring Venezuela 11-4, with veteran minor leaguer Angel Chavez leading the way with four of the team's 15 hits and three RBIs. Paolo Espino (Indians) struck out eight and gave up three runs in six innings to earn the victory.