TAICHUNG, Taiwan — Cuba and Italy had never faced each other in the World Baseball Classic before their Pool A match at Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium.
But after Thursday night, fans may want them to face each other in every WBC.
The game had it all: big hits, huge strikeouts, field errors, back and forth, the Horn Guy, and celebrations after singles.
But eventually, after 10 innings, Mike Piazza’s Italian side secured a huge 6-3 win over Cuba.
“I was really impressed with our team,” said Piazza. “We didn’t get discouraged. We just kept fighting and…it was a big win. It’s a big win. It’s a big win for our federation.”
The first five innings of the match flew by – played in a clean hour and a half. Cuban starter Roenis Elías, a Mariners reliever, pitched five scoreless two-hit innings. Italian starter Matt Harvey and reliever Andre Pallante tied Elías with five scoreless frames. The duo allowed just three hits, with Harvey coming off a big third-inning jam to leave Cuba locked in second and third.
“I think our pitchers did a good job tonight,” Piazza said. “They threw the ball well, and tomorrow we always talk, we always collaborate to see how we can improve our team. But I was very impressed with the way (Harvey) threw tonight, and how I I said, he got this jam, and so I decided, we collectively decided that we just wanted to give him a good ending.”
Finally, in round six, things started to percolate.
Italy scored the game’s first point on a Brett Sullivan sacrifice ball high on the frame and another on an assisted double from Yoenis Céspedes in the seventh. Cuba bounced back for a run in the seventh, then another huge two-out Erisbel Arruebarrena RBI single in the eighth. Arruebarrena’s teammates couldn’t contain themselves.
Both teams were down 1-2-3 at ninth, then for the first time in WBC history, it was extra time at second base.
Sal Frelick was the second man for Italy and he almost immediately caught Cuba off guard and stole third place.
“Use your instincts and be smart,” Piazza said of Frelick stealing third place. “But we needed something to change the momentum because I think when we were swinging the bats we just got a little pushy in those situations – when we weren’t scoring runs with runners at second and third and less It was great that he took it himself. But I trust those guys. I mean, I want them to think and I want them to be smart.
John Valente hit Frelick with a single down the middle and then, well, Italy poured it in. Dominic Fletcher added an insurance run with an RBI brace into the right center field gap, and after Cuba intentionally walked David Fletcher to Nicky Lopez, the Royals speedster charged manager Armando Johnson with a simple two-pointer. between.
“I thought it would probably be an off-speed pitch and I was just trying to see him as deep as possible, but I know I could react to the fastball if he threw it,” Lopez said. “I was lucky enough to see a slider come up and give it a good swing.”
Cuba added one late in the round, but that was it. Italy took a big win in their first match of the week.
“It was an amazing win for us here, and obviously it was amazing for me to have the ball the first game and I couldn’t be prouder to score zeros for the team,” Harvey said. .
Italy’s next game is against Chinese Taipei here on Friday (6 a.m. ET, Tubi), while Cuba takes on Panama on Friday (11:30 p.m. ET Thursday, FS1). The Netherlands are also in Pool A. Each team plays the other four in round robin play, with the winner and runners-up from Pool advancing to the quarter-finals in Tokyo against the top Pool B teams. .