By Matthew Tallarini
World Baseball Network
NASSAU, BAHAMAS – A brawl helped to fire up Cuba’s bats Wednesday night at the Caribbean Cup as the knocked off the Bahamas 9-3.
Cuba clung to a 1-0 lead against the Bahamas, the host nation, Wednesday night, after Luis Mateo scored on a passed ball in the bottom of the first.
A controversial call occurred in the top of the fifth, when, with two runners on, the Bahamas Yeshua Saint laid down a bunt up the first base side that was ruled foul for landing in the batter’s box. Saint stuck out on the following pitch, and Cuba got out of the inning.
Two batters after Yunior Ibbara was hit by a pitch to lead off the bottom of the fifth, Luis Mateo singled to right, scoring Ibarra and putting Cuba up 2-0. Then Yoelkis Guibert doubled to right, scoring Santago Torres. A few batters later, Guillermo Aviles drew a bases-loaded walk, and Cuba led 4-0.
And then, the fireworks started shortly after Carvin Dames came in from the bullpen for the Bahamas.
With the bases loaded, a wild pitch allowed Guibert to score, Hector Labrada to advance to third and Guillermo Aviles to get to second. Dames thought Labrada was breaking for the plate and balked, allowing him to score. Then Labrada shoved Dames and both dugouts cleared, with a big scuffle would result in the ejection of Bahamas manager Geron Sands, Dames, and Labrada.
Cuba starter Leodan Reyes went six shutout innings, allowing four hits, walking two and striking out four. Yunier Castillo held down the for in relief, giving up three runs, one earned, in three innings.
Cuba will play Curacao at 2 p.m. Thursday, as teams jockey for seeding in the semifinals. The Bahamas will close out the opening round against Puerto Rico at 7 p.m. Thursday with a semifinal berth on the line, though the U.S. Virgin Islands retains a slim hope of playing further in the Caribbean Cup.