By Matthew Tallarini, Chief Correspondent, World Baseball Network
Dec. 5, 2022
NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Coming off a 4-3 loss Sunday against the Bahamas, the U.S. Virgin Islands hoped to bounce back against Cuba.
Instead, they fell to 0-2 in the 2022 Caribbean Cup, losing Monday afternoon’s early game 9-0.
Cuba first basemen Guillermo Aviles rapped a single to right field, scoring second basemen Santiago Torres to take a 1-0 lead in the top of the first. While it was all they would need, they tacked on another run as designated hitter Leonardo Urgelles hit into ground-ball double play, scoring shortstop Luis Mateo Scores to take a 2-0 lead.
Santiago Baena added an insurance run for Cuba in the top of the second after walking, stealing second, advancing to third on Terry Mateo’s single, and then scoring on a wild pitch. U.S.V.I. starting pitcher Mark Knight lasted just two innings, giving up three hits, three earned runs, four walks, a balk and no strikeouts against the high power Cuban offense.
In the fifth inning, Cuba kept piling on. Aviles scored on a wild pitch during Yasiel Gonzalez’s at-bat to give Cuba a 4-0 lead. Gonzalez eventually hit a sacrifice fly, scoring left fielder Hector Prado, and then Prado doubled down the right field line scoring Aviles to extend the lead to 6-0.
Cuba would continue to pour on more runs during the later innings, adding two more in the sixth and one in the seventh. Their starter, Jose Rodriguez, went six innings, allowing two hits, one walk, two strikeouts and no earned runs, pitching with composure, working the strike zone consistently, and getting ground ball outs.
Cuban manager Armando Johnson has plenty of roster decisions to make for the upcoming World Baseball Classic in March. Johnson stated that he was very excited to have players from Cuba commit to playing outside of their federation in the free agent market, winter leagues, and majors such as notable stars Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert who have already declared. Cuba’s roster for this tournament is largely drawn from in their Serie Nacional, which ended during the beginning of this year.
Cuba’s bats will look to carry on the momentum against Puerto Rico at 7 p.m. Tuesday. The U.S. Virgin Islands will play against Curacao at 2 p.m. on Tuesday.