Pitching and home runs.
In baseball, they go together like mom and apple pie.
The Ciego de Avila Tigres of Cuba had both elements working in their favour on Day 3 of the World Baseball Challenge and that spelled trouble for the Chinese Taipei national team.
Yander Guevara, a 27-year-old Cuban national team member who pitched in the World Baseball Classic in March, admitted he didn't have his best stuff with him Thursday afternoon at Citizen Field, but what he brought to the ball park was awfully effective in a 10-3 triumph. Through eight innings he limited a potent Chinese Taipei lineup to just two hits, while giving up five walks.
"Chinese Taipei is a good team and most of the time I used my sinker in this game," said Guevara, speaking through an interpreter. "The home runs gave us an early lead and that was a good thing because I could use all my pitches."
Cuba had a rude welcoming in store for Chinese Taipei pitcher Fan Weng Chen and his sidearm delivery. Two of Fan's throws were sent sailing over the left field wall and the Cubans grabbed an early 3-0 lead as a result. Leadoff hitter Ricardo Bourdon got all of a low pitch and then Yoelvis Fiss, with Raul Gonzalez safely aboard on a single, found a pitch to his liking in the same location as Bourdon and went yard.
The shelling continued in the second inning. Lefthanded hitter Humberto Morales hit a high fly that had enough momentum to carry over the right field fence just shy of the beer garden, the first of the tournament to that side of Citizen Field. That was enough for manager Ming Tsu Lu, who removed Fan and brought in lefthander Wang Tsung Hao.
Chinese Taipei designated hitter Hsiao Po Ting parked a Guevara pitch onto the berm beyond right field to get his team on the scoreboard in the third. That inspired Huang Chi-Wei to show off his power and say "see ya," with a ball that cleared the high wall at right field. That cut the lead in half, with Chinese Taipei trailing 4-2 heading into the bottom of the fourth.
Wang had better success keeping the ball in the park but couldn't prevent Isac Martinez from clubbing a long ball off the shallow wall at right centrefield. That was enough to score Yoelvis Fiss, from third base after Fiss had walked, stolen a base and advanced on a throwing error by first baseman Hsu Chi-Hung.
Chien Chin-Yu was brought in to pitch in the seventh and with nobody out and Gonzalez occupying second, Chien forced Martinez to hit into a double play but Gonzalez scored on the play to increase the lead to 6-2.
Cuba broke it open in the eighth with four more runs, all charged to Lin. Gonzalez hit a three-run shot that came with two out, scoring Yozzen Cuesta and Yorbis Borroto.
"Our team is a very strong hitting team, we have power and today we showed that," said Gonzalez, who went 3-for-4 at the plate.
"We took the lead from the very beginning and we could relax a bit. Yander is a great pitcher and today he did well but it wasn't his best performance."
Guevara had hoped to pitch a complete game like his teammate Vladimir Garcia did in Cuba's opening win Wednesday night against Japan but his arm was tired and he pulled himself from the game.
Lizaro Santana came in to pitch the ninth for Cuba and Luo Gui-Long gave him something to think about, launching another ball into home run territory, the seventh of the game.
Huang, the Chinese Taipei catcher, has seen enough of Cuba this tournament to predict they are likely to advance in the gold-medal final next Thursday. He's looking forward to facing the Tigres again in their final round-robin game Tuesday night.
"Cuba is very ambitious and motivated, they want to win," said Huang, who went 3-for-4 in the game. "But our Chinese Taipei team will get better and better with each game."
With the win Cuba moves to 2-0 atop the standings, while Chinese Tapei is at 1-1. Cuba gets the day off today, while Chinese Taipei plays Canada tonight at 7.