Cuba capitalizes on miscues to stun Venezuela

3/13/2006 - MLB


SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Cuba proved its point that it could
hold its own against teams with major league star power.

Ten-time Gold Glove winner Omar Vizquel missed a double play
opportunity and gave up an additional out on a fielder's choice,
and Cuba capitalized with a five-run sixth inning in a 7-2 victory
over Venezuela on Sunday in the second round of the World Baseball

Frederich Cepeda hit a three-run homer and Ariel Pestano
followed with a solo shot as the underdog Cubans broke out after
Johan Santana departed.

"Both teams played great baseball," Cuban manager Higinio
Velez said. "Two days ago we told everyone to wait patiently for
today's game. ... This is what Cuban baseball is all about. Our
players wanted to come back strong after losing in a mercy rule
game and they came through."

The Cubans were routed by Puerto Rico 12-2 in their final game
of the first round, but had already clinched a berth in this round
along with the powerful Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Puerto

With Cuba ahead 1-0, right-hander Giovanni Carrara replaced
Santana, the Minnesota Twins ace who threw 67 pitches, 13 short of
the 80-pitch limit for this round.

Leadoff hitter Eduardo Paret sparked the rally with a four-pitch
walk and a stolen base, his second of the tournament. Michel Enriquez rolled a single over second base to score the speedy
Paret, and Yulieski Gourriel popped out to left for the first out.

Designated hitter Osmani Urrutia hit a grounder to the left of
Vizquel, who was unable to step on second before Enriquez reached
safely, and it was too late to throw out the runner at first.

Carrara got a groundball to second from Yoandri Garlobo that
looked like an inning-ending double play. Second baseman Edgardo Alfonzo tossed the ball to Vizquel for the first out, but the
crafty shortstop could not get a grip on the ball to throw to
first, and Cepeda followed with his three-run drive.

"Clutch hitting has been the missing ingredient for us,"
Venezuela manager Luis Sojo said. "The Cubans are very good
fastball hitters and they showed they were ready whenever they got
that pitch."

Venezuela scored its only two runs in the seventh on Endy Chavez's home run to right with Alfonzo on second.

Cuba took an early 1-0 lead in the second. Designated hitter
Yoandri Garlobo doubled down the first-base line, moved to third on
a grounder to short by Pestano, and scored on Ariel Borrero's
single to left field.

Detroit Tigers right fielder Magglio Ordonez got Venezuela's
first hit of the game in the fifth with a liner to left. Pedro Lazo
replaced starter Yadel Marti after Ramon Hernandez singled to
center. Lazo bobbled Alfonzo's grounder to load the bases with no

But Chavez and Vizquel hit fly balls that were too shallow to
score the slow Ordonez, and Carlos Guillen struck out swinging on a
97 mph pitch.

Venezuela's chance to move on to the semifinals will hang the
shoulders of a pair of Chicago starters, hard-throwing Carlos Zambrano of the Cubs and White Sox veteran Freddy Garcia.

Zambrano will pitch for Venezuela against Puerto Rico on Monday,
and Cuba meets the Dominican Republic.

"We have Carlos on the mound tomorrow and Freddy comes next,
and we'll have to work hard to get to San Diego," Sojo said.

Santana, the unanimous American League Cy Young award winner in
2004, struck out five in five innings and gave up two hits and one
earned run.