Mexico gets knocked around by Cuba

Squad heads to Round 2 in San Diego to face Korea Sunday

Oscar Robles is greeted by Adrian Gonzalez and Jorge Cantu after homering in the second. (Gregory Bull/AP)

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MEXICO CITY -- Team Mexico guaranteed itself a spot in Round 2 of the World Baseball Classic with a revengeful win over Australia on Wednesday.

But with a 16-4 loss to Cuba on Thursday in the final game of Pool B, there is uncertainty as to which Mexico team will show up in San Diego -- the one with timely hitting and reliable starting pitching, or the team that was outscored, 33-11, in two losses.

"I don't like to lose," Mexico manager Vinny Castilla said. "I don't like to lose the way we did."

Mexico now turns its attention to Pool A winner Korea, which it plays at 11 p.m. ET on Sunday night. The ballclubs opened the second round of the 2006 Classic against each as well in a game that Korea won, 2-1.

"Korea is a very strong team. They know how to play baseball," said Castilla, who was on Mexico's roster as a player in 2006. "They know to how to play small ball. They're very fast runners, great pitchers. They know how to field greatly, and they know how to win."

In playing Korea, Mexico will be able to rely greatly on the knowledge of several of its players. Brothers Adrian and Edgar Gonzalez and Scott Hairston, who all play for the San Diego Padres, should help their teammates feel right at home inside PETCO Park.

Additionally, outfielder Karim Garcia has spent part of his career in Korea and played against many of Korea's players.

"He knows what their pitching is like, and he knows who we're going to be facing in San Diego," Castillo said. "It's absolutely fundamental. There's more scouting in that sense, and who better than Karim, who's faced them and who can give you deeper type of information."

Mexico should welcome any edge it can get after repeatedly missing opportunities against Cuba.

Down a run, Mexico had a chance to knot things up in the top of the second, when it had the bases loaded. Hairston and Jorge Vazquez walked and Agustin Murillo took a pitch to his thigh, but with one out already tallied, Miguel Ojeda grounded into a double play.

Mexico did move ahead, 2-1, on back-to-back home runs from Freddy Sandoval and Oscar Robles to start the third inning. But again when Mexico had the bases loaded, this time in the fourth, it was only able to push across a run as Adrian Gonzalez struck out to end the inning.

That left the door open for Cuba, which pounced on the opportunity to the tune of five runs in the bottom of the fourth. Second baseman Yuliesky Gourriel lined a two-run home run into right field. Cespedes hit an RBI single into left, and Michel Enriquez doubled in a pair of runs.

Cuba was only warming up, however, as it would build on its lead in the seventh inning, largely at the expense of Dennys Reyes.

Reyes took the mound for Mexico to start the seventh, only to give up three straight hits, including a double, throw three wild pitches and hit pinch-hitter Leonys Martin. Reyes was lifted after walking Joan Carlos Pedroso, but Mexico's suffering wouldn't end there.

The next batter, Ariel Pestano, smacked a three-run home run into right field that sent many of Mexico's fans toward the exits and popcorn and drinks toward a few Cuba supporters behind the third-base dugout that were boisterously celebrating their team's 13-4 lead.

Left fielder Frederich Cepeda delivered the final blow, a crushing three-run home into center field to end the game. Of the 28 home runs hit in six games played at Foro Sol Stadium this week, Cepeda was the lone batter to homer to center field.

Christopher Ramirez is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.