Hampered by a dreadful 10-run fifth, Taiwan fell to Cuba 10-5 in the final of this year’s World Baseball Challenge at the Citizen Field Park in Prince George, Canada, on Sunday night to settle for a second-placed finish.
Sporadic rain throughout the day forced the opening pitch to be pushed back by two hours, but that did not keep Taiwan, winner of their last contest against Cuba in extra innings in the second round, from taking a surprising 4-0 lead in the top of the second when Wang Chun-chieh deposited an offering from Cuba starter Miguel Gonzalez into the left-field seats for a three-run blast, followed by Lin Han’s RBI single that scored Hsiao Po-ting from second base.
The lead seemed safe with starter Kuo Chun-lin holding Cuba to three hits over four scoreless frames, with Taiwan looking strong in the early going.
FRIED IN THE FIFTH
However, things took a turn for the worse in an eventful fifth when Kuo struggled with his control, allowing the leadoff hitter to reach via a walk, before serving up a two-run blast to Cuba’s Rudy Reyes that promptly halved the lead to 4-2.
That was only the beginning of what ended up being a 10-run scoring binge for Cuba as Kuo allowed the next three hitters to reach on a defensive error by the right fielder, a hit batsman and a walk to load up the bags for Hector Olivera’s sacrifice fly that made it 4-3, before Cuba piled on seven more runs against three different relievers to blow the game wide open at 10-4.
Even though Taiwan got a run back in the sixth off Lin Wei-ting’s RBI single off reliever Norberto Gonzalez, that was all they could muster off the stingy lefty, who cruised through to the ninth without giving up another run to clinch the victory.
TRYING TOO HARD
“We really beat ourselves, in that our relievers all tried too hard to get us out of the jam in the fifth, and that meant they couldn’t throw strikes when they needed to,” Taiwan head coach Chen Wei-cheng said after the game.
His troops managed to pound out nine hits against Cuba’s pitching, but only had five runs on the board to show for them, compared with Cuba’s 10 hits, which produced 10 runs.
Taiwan return home tomorrow for a brief rest before the players prepare to do battle in the upcoming IBAF Baseball World Cup in Panama City in October.
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