TEAM USA HOMERS FIVE TIMES IN DRAMATIC WIN OVER CUBA, 8-5
September 5, 2006

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  • Team USA completed its successful run for a berth in the 2008 Olympic Games in grand style by defeating the host country Cuba, 8-5, in front of a sold out crowd of 45,000 fans at Latino Americano Stadium in Havana on Tuesday night.

    Cuba (8-1) entered the game unbeaten in the tournament and had allowed only a single run in its last three games in the second round. Overall, the defending Olympic Gold Medalist had outscored its tournament opponents, 87-11, while allowing only two home runs, one to Panama's Jaime Jaen and one to the Dominican Republic's Luis De Paula.

    It was the long ball that failed the Cubans against Team USA as they allowed five home runs, including a key go-ahead blast by Brandon Wood in the top of the eighth. With the game tied at 5-5, Wood failed in his first two attempts to lay down a sacrifice bunt and then turned the next pitch into a clutch two-run home run off reliever Pedro Lazo.

    Cuban starter Adiel Palma didn't record an out in the first inning as he was pulled by manager Rey Anglada after loading the bases on back-to-back singles to Skip Schumaker and Bobby Hill and hitting Mike Kinade with a pitch. Team USA couldn't take advantage after reliever Yunieksi Maya retired the next three batters without allowing a run.

    The teams traded scoreless frames until Hill got the U.S. on the board in the third when he ripped a solo home run to right field off Maya. In the fourth, Maya recorded two quick outs before Michael Bourn homered to right for a 2-0 lead. Team USA added two more in the inning after Kinkade drilled a two-run double, scoring Schumaker and Hill, who had singled and walked, respectively.

    Team USA took its 4-0 advantage into the fifth when Cuba finally got on the board off starting pitcher Kevin Slowey. Michel Enriquez scored Giorvis Durvergel with an RBI triple, but Slowey got out of the inning without allowing any further damage.

    Bourn delivered again in the top of the sixth with his second home run of the game, a 425-foot blast to centerfield that pushed the score to 5-1. It was Team USA's second multi-homer game of the tournament. Mark Reynolds had the other against Puerto Rico.

    Cuba rallied in the sixth and seventh to tie the game at 5-5 off U.S. relievers J. Brent Cox and Jeff Ridgway, setting the stage for Wood's dramatic homer.

    Pinch-hitter Jarrod Saltalamacchia put the exclamation point on the win with a first-pitch homer in the top of the ninth.

    Team USA's bullpen closed out the victory with Lee Gronkiewicz pitching 1 2/3 scoreless innings and Henry Owens working the ninth for his third save of the tournament. Slowey was effective in his five innings as he scattered five hits while allowing a lone run.

    Wood, Bourn and Kinkade each drove in two runs, while Schumaker and Hill again set the table at the top of the order by combining to go 4-for-6 with two walks and three runs scored. Hill finished the tournament with a .560 average (14-for-25), while Schumaker hit .415 (17-for-41) with a tournament-high 16 runs scored.

    NOTES: Both teams exchanged commemorative pins prior to the game. ... Mexico finished the second round of the tournament with a 5-2 mark, while Canada was fourth (4-3), Venezuela fifth (3-4) and Panama sixth (2-5). ... Each of the top six teams automatically qualified for berths in the 2007 Baseball World Cup to be held in Taipei.