Mexico ousted from Classic by Cuba
Team eliminated from tournament in second round once again
By Jesse Sanchez / MLB.com
Mexico's Scott Hairston (left) and Karim Garcia look on as Cuba celebrates its win. (Denis Poroy/AP)
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SAN DIEGO -- Mexico will have to wait four years for its next chance at a World Baseball Classic title.
The squad was eliminated from contention by virtue of Monday's 7-4 loss to Cuba at PETCO Park.
"We didn't do the small things," left fielder Cristhian Presichi said. "I think Cuba played best. Unfortunately, their batting was much better than ours and somebody needs to win, and they played a better ballgame."
Korea defeated Mexico, 8-2, in the first game of Pool 1 play on Sunday, but the Mexicans can thank Cuba's Frederich Cepeda for the accelerated exit out of the tournament one day later.
"Freddy is a compact little player that knows what he is doing," Cuba catcher Ariel Pestano said. "He does not rush. He has patience with his bat and he has a good arm in the outfield. He's a very complete player."
Mexico experienced the power of Cepeda firsthand on Monday.
With the game tied at 2 in the fifth and Mexico starter Jorge Campillo on the mound, Cuba center fielder Leonys Martin and second baseman Hector Olivera led off the frame with singles. The next batter, designated hitter Michel Enriquez, walked on six pitches after falling behind in the count, 1-2.
Campillo's first pitch to Cepeda was a slider out of the strike zone. The right-hander threw a changeup for strike one, missed with a breaking ball and evened the count at 2-2 with fastball on the inside corner.
It was Campillo's best pitch of the at-bat.
His next pitch, a fastball that traveled the heart of the strike zone, would be his worst. Cepeda drove the delivery deep into the gap in right-center field to score all three runs to push Cuba ahead, 5-2.
Cepeda ended up on second. Campillo ended up in the dugout, and Pablo Ortega ended up on the mound with his team behind by three.
It was all the offense Cuba needed.
"After elimination, it's a sad situation," Presichi said. "We had a lot more in [this team]. Unfortunately, we didn't do the things that we were supposed to do. The batting was up to par and pitching as well, but they played better. I think the Mexican team will be improved for the next World Classic."
Trailing, 2-1, in the bottom of the fourth, Mexico tied the game at 2 on a bases-loaded ground ball by center fielder Scott Hairston that scored first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. Mexico was poised for a rally but Presichi grounded out to the pitcher to end the scoring threat and the inning.
Cuba starter Norge Vera was effective, allowing two runs on three hits in 4 2/3 innings. He struck out five batters and walked two during the 82-pitch outing.
The right-hander was removed because of a problem with his leg during a 14-pitch at-bat with Mexico second baseman Freddy Sandoval. Pedro Lazo replaced Vera and walked Sandoval on the very next pitch.
Cuban right fielder Yoennis Cespedes extended the lead to five runs, 7-2, with a triple that scored two runs in the top of the seventh off Mexico reliever Francisco Rodriguez.
Cuba scored in the first inning when third baseman Yulieski Gourriel drove a Campillo pitch up the middle for an RBI single. The team extended its lead to 2-0 in the third inning a single by Cepeda that scored Martin.
As for Cepeda, he finished 3-for-4 with four RBIs.
"The main objective here is the team," Cepeda said. "If we can move forward to the semifinals and be the winner, that would be the best I can take out of the Classic. My main goal going on the field is being a team player and the Most Valuable Player is the team."
Mexico's first run of the game came in the third inning, when Miguel Ojeda scored on a single by Sandoval to cut Cuba's lead to 2-1.
"We said yesterday that we were a team that was ready to overcome defeat and here we are," Cuba manager Higinio Velez said. "We respect powerful teams, such as Mexico, but one of us had to be on top."