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Cuba continues World Cup dominance

By John Manuel
November 18

Medal Stand
Team USA members pick up their silver medals
Photo: Dave Fanucchi
Cuba didn't win the Olympic gold medal last September, but got some measure of revenge Sunday in familiar fashion.

Pitching from a new face and a clutch hit by a veteran led Cuba to a 5-3 win against Team USA in Sunday's championship game of the 34th World Cup in Taiwan. It's the seventh straight World Cup championship for Cuba since 1952. Team USA is now 2-21 against Cuba in World Cup play all-time.

Team USA, which went 7-3 overall in the tournament, picked up its first medal in this event since a 1988 silver but hasn't won the World Cup since 1974. Cuba continued its amazing World Cup success: Since 1952, Cuba has won every World Cup in which it has participated and has won 23 World Cups overall.

"This victory allows us to recover from the hurt of Sydney," said Cuba manager Higinio Velez. "I am very happy. We haven't lost since 1952."

The revenge for the Olympics was particularly sweet for reliever Pedro Luis Lazo, the Cuban closer often compared to Lee Smith. Cuba had taken a 5-2 lead with three runs in the eighth, and young reliever Vicyohondri Odelin, who went 12-5, 2.54 for Camaguey in Cuba's Series Nacional last winter, had held the Americans in check since relieving starter Jose Ibar in the fourth inning.

But the Americans made a final rally in the bottom of the ninth. Odelin hit Marty Malloy (Reds) with a pitch to lead off the inning, and after a fly ball out by Ken Huckaby (Diamondbacks), shortstop Matt Erickson (Marlins) tripled to score Malloy and bring the tying run to the plate.

But Lazo, who started and lost the Olympic final last year, struck out Team USA's most experienced player, major league veteran Chris Snopek (Cubs), for the second out. He then ended the game by getting first baseman Ben Broussard (Reds) on a pop-out.

Cuba had taken the lead with a decisive three-run rally in the eighth inning against reliever Tom Shearn (Astros), who had pitched extremely well in the World Cup. Coming into the game, Shearn, who went 5-6, 3.85 in 110 innings with 136 strikeouts at Double-A Round Rock this season, had pitched 7 1/3 hitless, scoreless innings in Taiwan, giving up only one walk and striking out six. Overall, manager Terry Francona's relievers had pitched 26 1/3 scoreless innings in the tournament.

Shearn pitched a scoreless seventh, but in the eighth, Orestes Kindelan and Antonio Pacheco--two of Cuba's most grizzled veterans and all-time best players--singled. After Omar Linares grounded out, Yobal Duenas walked to load the bases. Rolando Merino then hit a pinch-hit fly ball to center field. Mark Budzinski (Indians), whom Francona put on the team for his defense, uncorked a good throw that beat Kindelan tagging from third, but Huckaby could not hold onto the ball in the home-plate collision for what would have been an inning-ending double play.

Instead, it was 3-2 Cuba, and another veteran, shortstop German Mesa, broke the game open, lining a single to right field to drive in two runs and make the score 5-2.

"We had a chance to win, but we just came up short," said Francona. "We were excited that we got to their bullpen early, but we really didn't take advantage of it."

Cuba also got to Team USA's bullpen early. The Cubans took an early 2-0 lead off righthander Jason Phillips (Indians), who hadn't given up a run in his first two World Cup starts. Once again, Cuba's veteran lineup, which seems to be questioned more and more as the years go on, came through. Gomez, one of the team's top young hitters, singled and advanced to second on a wild pitch, then came home on Kindelan's two-out single to center. Kindelan led Cuba with eight RBIs and 12 hits in the tournament.

Cuba then went up 2-0 in the third on Michal Enrique's RBI-single that brought home Luis Ulacia, another veteran. Enrique, meanwhile, had filled in at third base for injured vet Linares, who was limited to DH duty in the medal round. Chris Enochs (Athletics) relieved Phillips and got Duenas to fly out with the bases loaded, ending the threat.

Team USA got a run back in the bottom of the third when Erickson led off with a single and took third on Snopek's single. Broussard's fielder's choice groundout allowed Erickson to score, making it 2-1.

Team USA mounted another rally in the fourth, knocking Ibar out of the game, when Orlando Hudson (Blue Jays) singled, stole a base and scored on Huckaby's two-out single to right. That tied the game at 2-2, but Odelin came on to fan Erickson, ending the inning.

Since professional players have been allowed to compete in sanctioned International Baseball Federation (IBAF) events, Team USA and Cuba have met in the gold-medal game of a major international competition in each of the last three years. In 2000, the Unites States, led by Brewers righthander Ben Sheets, shocked the Cubans to capture Olympic gold with a 4-0 victory in Sydney, Australia. In 1999, it was Cuba that defeated the Americans 5-1 in the finals of the Pan American Games in Winnipeg, Canada.

Team USA's Huckaby, Budzinski and lefthander Jason Stanford (Indians) were named to the all-tournament team. Cuba's Ulacia was named the World Cup MVP after hitting .512 (22-for-43) with 10 runs, six RBIs and six stolen bases in 10 games.

In the bronze medal game, Dodgers outfielder Chin-Feng Chen belted a pair of home runs to account for all the scoring, and Chin-Chiah Chang pitched a five-hit complete-game shutout to give the host nation the bronze medal with a 3-0 win against Japan. It's Taiwan's first World Cup medal since it took bronze in 1988 and continues Japan's recent downturn in international play.

Since winning the 1997 Intercontinental Cup in Spain, when they upset Cuba, the Japanese have lost to Korea for the '99 Asian Games title and failed to medal in the Olympics and now the World Cup. In the Olympics, Japan's team had nine members of its major leagues, and the World Cup team had 14 Japanese big leaguers, including the entire starting lineup and most of the rotation.

Baseball America Taiwan correspondent Jeffrey Wilson contributed to this story.

MEDAL ROUND

Gold: Cuba 5, USA 3

Bronze: Taiwan 3, Japan 0

Consolation Round

The Netherlands 7, Dominican Republic 3

Panama 3, Korea 2

FINAL 2001 BASEBALL WORLD CUP STANDINGS


Gold    Cuba                9-1 
Silver  USA                 7-3 
Bronze  Taiwan              8-2 
4       Japan               8-2 
5       Panama              7-3 
6       Korea               6-4 
7       The Netherlands     5-5 
8       Dominican Republic  5-5 
9       Nicaragua           4-3 
10      Australia           3-4 
11      Canada              2-5 
        Italy               2-5 
13      Russia              1-6 
        South Africa        1-6 
15      France              0-7 
        The Philippines     0-7 

GOLD MEDAL GAME: Cuba vs USA 
Nov 18, 2001 at Taipei, Taiwan (Tien Mou Stadium) 

Cuba 5 (9-1)                     USA 3 (7-3) 

                  AB  R  H RBI                     AB  R  H RBI 

Ulacia lf          4  1  2  0    Crawford lf        4  0  1  0 
Gomez cf           2  1  1  0    Budzinski cf       4  0  1  0 
Macias ph          1  0  0  0    Hudson 2b          4  1  2  0 
Duvergel cf/rf     1  0  1  0    Borchard rf        4  0  0  0 
Enrique 3b         5  0  1  1    Malloy dh          3  1  0  0 
Kindelan 1b        4  1  2  1    Huckaby c          4  0  2  1 
Pacheco 2b         3  1  1  0    Erickson ss        3  1  2  1 
Linares dh         2  0  0  0    Snopek 3b          3  0  1  0 
Duenas rf          2  1  0  0    Broussard 1b       4  0  0  0 
Scull rf           0  0  0  0    Phillips p         0  0  0  0 
Pestano c          2  0  0  0    Enochs p           0  0  0  0 
Merino ph/c        1  0  0  1    Capuano p          0  0  0  0 
Mesa ss            4  0  2  2    Shearn p           0  0  0  0 
Ibar p             0  0  0  0    Nance p            0  0  0  0 
Odelin p           0  0  0  0    Bullinger p        0  0  0  0 
Lazo p             0  0  0  0         

Totals......      31  5 10  5    Totals......      33  3  9  2 

Score by innings:                      R  H  E 
---------------------------------------------- 
Cuba                  101 000 030   -  5 10  1 
USA                   001 100 001   -  3  9  0 
---------------------------------------------- 

E - Kindelan. DP - Cuba 1. LOB - Cuba 8, USA 6. 3B - Erickson. 
SH - Ulacia, Gomez, Linares, Erickson. SF - Merino. SB - Hudson. 
CS - Ulacia, Huckaby. 

                       IP  H  R ER BB SO  WP BK HP IBB  AB BF 

Ibar                  3.2  4  2  2  0  5   0  0  0  0   15 15  
Odelin W 1-0          4.2  5  1  1  1  4   0  0  1  0   16 19  
Lazo S,1              0.2  0  0  0  0  1   0  0  0  0    2  2  

Phillips              2.2  4  2  2  3  2   1  0  0  0   11 15  
Enochs                1.0  1  0  0  0  0   0  0  0  0    4  4  
Capuano               2.2  1  0  0  1  2   0  0  0  0    7  9  
Shearn L 1-1          1.1  3  3  3  1  0   0  0  0  1    5  8  
Nance                 0.1  1  0  0  0  0   0  0  0  0    2  2  
Bullinger             1.0  0  0  0  0  0   0  0  0  0    2  2  

WP - Phillips. HBP - by Odelin (Malloy). 

Strikeouts - Enrique, Pacheco, Linares, Pestano, Crawford 2, 
Budzinski, Hudson, Borchard, Malloy, Huckaby, Erickson, Snopek, 
Broussard. Walks - Kindelan, Pacheco, Linares, Duenas 2, Snopek. 

Start: 4:30 pm Attendance: 10,000

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