3/9/2013 10:20 A.M. ET
Cuban muscle eliminates Chinese Taipei
By Jason Coskrey / Special to MLB.com
TOKYO -- Cuba isn't done in the 2013 World Baseball Classic just yet, and on Saturday night the Cubans showed just how tough an out they're going to be.
Jose Abreu, Frederich Cepeda, and Yasmani Tomas hit multi-run homers, Alfredo Despaigne mixed in a solo shot, and the Cuban offense erupted in a 14-0 rout of Chinese Taipei in an elimination game on Saturday at Tokyo Dome.
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"Each player knew it was a do-or-die game," Cuban manager Victor Mesa said through a translator. "Every single piece of the puzzle came together, and they worked out very well."
The win means Cuba will face the loser of Sunday night's matchup between Japan and the Kingdom of the Netherlands for the right to advance to the semifinals.
"We have no choice," Mesa said of the potential team in his path. "So I can't say that much [about it]. The only thing we can do is just play hard. My ambition is to go to San Francisco with Japan."
Chinese Taipei was eliminated with the loss.
"Here in Tokyo, we lost two games in a row and we couldn't go forward," Chinese Taipei outfielder Dai-Kang Yang said.
Cuba jumped out front early after Cepeda hit a two-run home run in the first and Despaigne singled in a run in the fourth. The Cubans weren't done in that frame, as Tomas hit a three-run homer to make the score 6-0.
"My first at-bat, I grounded out," Tomas said through a translator. "The manager told me to sit on the outside pitch and make good contact. That's why I could hit a home run."
Cepeda and Tomas have been on fire during the Classic. Cepeda is now 8-for-16 with three doubles, a triple, a home run and five RBIs in five games. Tomas is 5-for-12 with a double, two homers and four RBIs over the same span.
Tomas struck out to start the sixth, but the next three hitters reached safely to load the bases. Yulieski Gourriel singled in a run to make the score 7-0, and Jose Fernandez brought in three more with a double.
Cepeda doubled in a run later in the inning, and he was then driven home on a two-run home run by Abreu. Despaigne capped an eight-run sixth with a solo homer.
Starting pitcher Danny Betancourt threw six scoreless innings to earn the win for Cuba, with Ching-Lung Lo taking the loss after allowing two runs on two hits in 2 2/3 innings.
Despite the loss, the Taiwanese team found a positive to take out of its time in the Classic.
Baseball had suffered through a few lean years recently in Taiwan, and many hope the sport is slowly on the upswing. The Chinese Taipei team is hoping its performance at the Classic helps get things turned around.
"In order to get the fans back to the stadiums, we have to play hard," Chinese Taipei manager Chang-Heng Hsieh said. "In that case, we are satisfied with what we did."
Chinese Taipei beat the Kingdom of the Netherlands and Australia in the first round to advance to Tokyo. They exit the Classic having lost their final three games against Korea (to close out the first round), Japan and Cuba.
"I am glad that we could show our fighting spirit to Chinese Taipei's fans," Hsieh said. "By playing hard here in Tokyo and Taichung, I am hoping all the fans come back to baseball and come back to the stadiums."
Jason Coskrey is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.