Cuba defeated two-time defending champion Japan 6-3 to complete its first-round group play at the World Baseball Classic.
Yasmany Tomas hit a third-inning home run and Alfredo Despaigne added a three-run homer in the eighth inning today at the Japan Dome in Fukuoka as Cuba finished 3-0 in Group A. Japan advanced to the second round with a 2-1 record.
Cuba will play the Netherlands (2-1) tomorrow in Tokyo, while Japan faces Taiwan, which finished atop Group B with a 2-1 record, the following day. Second-round play is a double- elimination format and Cuba could play Japan again on March 10 if both win their next games.
The U.S. team comprised of Major League Baseball players has the first of its opening-round Pool D games in two days against Mexico in Phoenix. Toronto Blue Jays knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, the reigning National League Cy Young Award-winner, will be the opening-game starting pitcher for the American team. Ryan Vogelsong of the San Francisco Giants and Derek Holland of the Texas Rangers will pitch the next two games, against Italy on March 9 and Canada on March 10.
Pool C play begins tomorrow in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Spain and Puerto Rico are grouped.
The first teams eliminated from the tournament were Brazil and China in Pool A, and Australia and South Korea in Pool B.
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