Cuba defeats USA 5-3

FROM TEAM USA RELEASE
BEIJING — Playing for the first time under the new extra-innings rule for Olympic competition, Cuba scored twice in the top of the 11th inning with the U.S. only able to plate one run in the bottom half, giving Cuba a 5-4 victory over the U.S. Olympic Baseball Team on Friday afternoon at the Wukesong Main Field.

Cuba improves to 3-0 in the 2008 Olympics, and the loss drops the U.S. to 1-2 after the first three days. The U.S. continues competition on Saturday morning against Canada with first pitch set for 10:30 a.m. local time (10:30 p.m. EDT on Friday night) at Field 2.

“It has been a fine line between us being 1-2 and 3-0,” said Jason Donald (Fresno, Calif.). “That’s international baseball for you. Every game, every run, every pitch — there is so much riding on it. There is nothing we can do about it now. we have to focus on our next game and get ready to go.”

Friday’s game saw the U.S. twice rally to tie the Cubans, first from a 2-0 deficit and then in the bottom of the eighth inning on a solo homer from Jayson Nix (Dallas, Texas) that tied the game at 3-3.

With the score deadlocked entering the 11th inning, the new extra inning rule for international competition went into effect. The rule states that the teams must place runners on first and second base with no outs, and the runners can come from any part in the lineup. Cuba elected to place their No. 8 and No. 9 hole hitters to bring up their leadoff hitter, Giorbis Duvergel. After a sacrifice bunt from Durvergel advanced the runners into scoring position, Michel Enriquez laced a single to right field scoring both runners and giving Cuba a 5-3 lead.

In the bottom half of the 11th, it was Team USA’s turn to place runners as manager Davey Johnson (Winter Park, Fla.) elected to put No. 9 hole hitter Jason Donald on second base and leadoff hitter Dexter Fowler (Atlanta, Ga.) on first.

Enter Jayson Nix, who looked to put down a sacrifice bunt. On the play, Cuba right-hander Pedro Luis Lazo hurled a fastball that went off Nix’s bat and struck him in the face. Nix was forced to leave the game and was taken to the hospital for further evaluation. Pinch-hitter Brian Barden (Templeton, Calif.) was able to get the sacrifice down and the U.S. now had their runners in scoring position.

The U.S. almost then came up with the win as Terry Tiffee (North Little Rock, Ark.) launched a deep fly ball into center field that was caught on the edge of the warning track by Duvergel, just missing a game-winning homer and ending in a sacrifice fly. With Fowler on third base, Lazo ended the inning and the game as he coaxed Matt Brown (Bellevue, Wash.) into a foul pop-up to catcher Ariel Pestano.

“We were in that game,” said Tiffee. “It was a good game, and we just didn’t come up with some key hits. They played well, we played well, and they beat us — so hat’s off to them.”

Lazo earned the win for Cuba after hurling six innings of relief. He allowed just two runs, one earned, on one hit with five strikeouts and one walk. Stevens suffered the loss after working one inning of relief, both runs were unearned.

Cuba broke out to an early 2-0 lead in the first inning. Duvergel led off the game with a walk, advanced to second base on a wild pitch and scored on Enriquez’ RBI double to right-center. A one-out single from Alexander Malleta and a walk to Frederich Cepeda loaded the bases for Cuba. U.S. starter Trevor Cahill (Oceanside, Calif.) then let one slip and hit Alexei Bell, allowing Cuba to plate its second run of the inning. Cahill worked out of the jam though as he coaxed Alfredo Despaigne into a fielder’s choice and struck out Pestano to end the frame.

U.S. starter Trevor Cahill worked five innings and allowed two runs on six hits with three strikeouts and four walks.

Team USA would get to Cuba starter Luis Rodriguez in the fourth inning with a pair of runs to tie the game. Tiffee continued to swing a hot bat as he doubled to left-center and scored on a one-out RBI double by Nate Schierholtz (Danville, Calif.). The U.S. would then eliminate the deficit on John Gall’s (Stanford, Calif.) two-out double to left field that scored Schierholtz.

The teams traded runs in the eighth inning on a pair of solo homers. The Cubans went ahead by a run in the top half when Despaigne drilled the first pitch from reliever Jeremy Cummings (Charleston, W.V.) to left-center giving Cuba the 3-2 lead. That lead would be short-lived, though, as Nix answered with a solo homer off Lazo to left field tying the game at 3-3.

Tiffee finished 2-for-4 to lead the U.S. at the plate. Enriquez, Bell and Pestano all had two hits to lead Cuba.