Intercontinental Cup Enters Final Weekend

Host Taiwan finally gave its fans a thrill, beating Cuba 4-3 Thursday to hand it its first loss of the Intercontinental Cup.

Taichung International Stadium was packed to capacity with about 15,000 fans, many of whom came out to salute Yankees righthander Chien-Ming Wang, who was there to watch the game. Perhaps inspired, Taiwan rallied with four runs in the third inning against Cuba and pitcher Dennis Suarez and held the lead behind Indians farmhand Sung Wei-Tseng, who has already logged 10 2/3 innings in the event. Blue Jays farmhand Po-Hsuan Keng, working as the Taiwan closer in the event, worked his fifth game and got his second save.

Cuba’s offense hasn’t been held in check much in Taiwan, as the team is batting .419 led by veteran catcher Ariel Pestano, who has two of Cuba’s five homers and is batting .467. Star second baseman Yulieski Gourriel is hitting .370 and saved his best for Cuba’s 6-3 victory against Japan, smacking three hits, including a double.

The victory allowed Taiwan to enter the final eight-team tournament’s round at 4-3 and in fourth place. Cuba (6-1) remains the top seed by virtue of its victory against Japan (6-1). The Netherlands seized third place after a thrilling 4-3, 11-inning victory against Australia on Thursday in which the Dutch scored single runs in the eighth, ninth, 10th and 11th.

Australia’s loss, coupled with Taiwan’s victory, set the semifinals for the event, with top-seeded Cuba facing fourth-seeded Taiwan again Saturday while No. 2 Japan plays No. 3 Netherlands. The winners meet Sunday night for the championship.