Australia falls on Cuba's late homer
Elimination game against Mexico looms on Wednesday night
By Christopher Ramirez / Special to MLB.com
Australia held a 4-2 lead after six innings, but that quickly evaporated with Cuba getting a run in the seventh and a pinch-hit, two-run home run from Yosbany Peraza in the eighth.
Australia now faces Mexico at 10 p.m. ET on Wednesday night in a rematch with elimination implications. Australia defeated Mexico handily on Sunday, 17-7.
Australia nearly punched its ticket to Round 2 in San Diego riding the arm of starter Travis Blackley, who held his own against Cuba's potent lineup.
"I felt good," said Blackley, who allowed one run on five hits over 5 2/3 innings and struck out four. "I had it all going. I was in a good rhythm and it didn't seem like anything was going to change."
But things nearly got away from Blackley when he was forced to work out of a jam with Cuba already leading, 1-0, in the fourth inning.
Cuba center fielder Yoennis Cespedes squeaked a line-drive double into right field just inside the foul line and moved to third when Blackley balked while pitching to Alexander Mayeta. But Blackley got Mayeta to ground out to first and struck out Ariel Pestano to end the inning.
"We just tried to move the ball around and not make the same pitch twice," Blackley said. "We know they're an aggressive hitting team, so I used that to my advantage a little bit."
Cuba pitcher Albertin Chapman found himself in a similar situation as Blackley when he balked in the bottom of the fourth. But instead of making it out unscathed, Australia made him pay. Chapman's miscue moved Luke Hughes to third after he led off the inning with a double, and Hughes scored on a single to left field by Ben Risinger to tie the score at 1.
Blackley exited after getting two outs in the top of the sixth to an ovation from the fans and a tip of his cap.
Australia manager Jon Deeble probably would have liked to keep Blackley in for one more out. Cespedes drove a 1-0 pitch from reliever Damian Moss for a home run and 2-1 Cuba lead.
"When I went out to get him, he said, 'Gee, I wish I could stay in,'" Deeble said. "He pitched a hell of a ballgame.
Australia took the lead on a strong sixth inning, scoring three runs, though it ultimately did not last.
"They're disappointed," Deeble said of his players. "But the good thing about our group, about the camaraderie, about the teamwork, the chemistry -- I don't think you can beat the Australians when it comes to chemistry -- is being able to get up when they're down."
Christopher Ramirez is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.