It was a game to decide first place in the World Baseball Challenge and it lived up the hype.
The Chinese Taipei national team, winners of four of their first five WBC games, had a tall order, needing not only a win over Ciego de Avila of Cuba but an eight run margin of victory in order to earn a free pass into Thursdays gold-medal final.
Chinese Taipei accomplished its first task, winning 6-4, but it wasnt enough, and that means the team will take to the field to tonight at 7 against JX-Eneos of Japan in the second-versus-third playoff. The winner of that game goes to the final against Cuba.
The loser plays for bronze Thursday at 3 p.m.
In front of a crowd of 968 at Citizen Field, Hsaio Po Ting singled in Wei Chih Chen with the go-ahead run in the top of the eighth and Kuo Ming Jen added some insurance, driving in Wang Wei Lin. Both runs were charged to Vadir Rabi, who had walked Jen and Lin before Cuban reliever Mario Neira was brought in to face Ting.
Cuba opened the scoring with a four-run fourth inning. Cubas first baseman Yozzen Cuesta stopped at home plate to admire the view as his long fly ball sliced through the ether far enough to clear the left field fence for a three-run home run with two out. Cuba already had one run across as a result of an error charged to second baseman Lin Han. Han bobbled a ground ball hit by Ruben Valdez, with Isac Martinez already on base after a walk and Mario Vega reached for home from second base.
Chinese Taipei got one of those runs back in the sixth inning. Huang Chin Wei was hit by a pitch from starter Dachel Duquesne, stole second, and got to third on a single from Wang Po Jung. A wild pitch from Duquesne brought Wei home.
Pinch hitter Lin Wang Wei led off the top of the seventh with a triple to the deepest part of the park. The next batter, Hsaio Po Ting rapped an RBI single and that sent slugger Lin Han to the plate. Han got ahold of Duquesne pitch high in the strike zone and took it for a ride, a two-run shot that tied it up at four apiece.
Jung Hao Hseih came in to get the last out of the eighth and sat the Cubans down in order in the ninth to ice the victory.
Expect Yander Guevada to get the call to pitch in the gold medal final. Guevada won Cubas second game of the tournament against Chinese Taipei last Thursday.