Canada derrotó 2-1 a Team USA y por vez primera en su historia es campeón panamericano en béisbol...Canada beat Team USA and for first time in history wins the Pan American title...
Cuba 6,México 0 Final
Cuba vence a México 6-0 y se alza con la medalla de bronce de los Juegos Panamericanos del 2011...Cuba beat Mexico 6-0 and wins the bronze medal of the 2011 Pan American Games...
USA 12, Cuba 10 Final
Cuba cae 12-10 ante Estados Unidos y por vez primera desde 1959 quedará fuera de las dos primeras posiciones en el béisbol Panamericano...Team USA beat Cuba 12-10 and the Cubans will be out of the Pan Am baseball Finals for the first time since 1959...
Peter C. Bjarkman's Columns ›
Cuba Approaches Perhaps Another Pan American
Games Gold Medal Appearance
by Peter C. Bjarkman | 10/23/2011 6:55 PM
Special to www.BaseballdeCuba.com
The stage is now set for still another USA-Cuba showdown match, this time in the semifinal round of this year’s week-long tournament at Pan American Stadium in Lagos de Moreno, Mexico. But after last night’s surprise victory by host Mexico over the previously high-flying Americans, the grand stage for the anticipated renewal will not be precisely the one most fans had been expecting. After Team USA breezed through its pair of opening matches with the Dominicans and Panamanians by a combined 31-2 count, it looked like we were headed for a showcase Gold Medal faceoff – the ninth overall and the fourth in a row. Cuba had so far done its part in assuring the desired “dream game” by running through its own three Group B contests with an unblemished ledger. Urquiola and company were thus anticipating a slightly less stiff semifinal test with the pesky but less-potent Mexicans, while the Americans seemed destined to square off with the pesky but beatable Canadians. A combined seven-pitcher five hitter nevertheless allowed the host team to upset the apple cart and put a fatal dent in the best-laid American and Cuban semifinal-round plans.
Cuba’s own three qualifying round games here in Mexico have all been tense battles and the route into the medal round for the recent World Cup silver medalists has not at all been the “easy street journey” that a 3-0 pool play ledger might suggest. In the opener Venezuela made things interesting (and more than a little uncomfortable) with a game-knotting four-run uprising against Vicyohandri Odelín in the seventh; a costly eighth-inning boot by shortstop Rodolfo Cardona then allowed the Cubans to escape upset by plating the game winner in the home half of the final frame. The Cuba-Canada game was a bit less nerve wracking thanks to an early 7-0 cushion built on solo shots by Cepeda and Despaigne in the first and a grand slam by Abreu in the third. But the Canadians did narrow the gap considerably in the late innings of a 9-5 Cuba victory. Those two inaugural triumphs clinched the Group B top slot and an automatic semifinal date for the Pan American defending champions.
A third meaningless preliminary round game (Cuba was already qualified and Puerto Rico already eliminated) ironically provided the most thrilling battle of the entire first round in either group. An early 5-1 Cuban cushion was quickly washed out by a 4-run fifth-inning Borinquen rally at the expense of starter Miguel Lahera. The game remain deadlocked at five into extra frames, and when Puerto Rico plated two “Schiller Rule” runs in the top of the tenth it appeared that Cuba’s perfect won-lost mark would go by the wayside and a certain degree of medal-round momentum would thus be lost. But this time fate was seemingly with the Red Machine and Alfredo Despaigne’s clutch last-gasp double (coming with two outs and a two strike count) again knotted the affair and kept the Cubans alive. What followed next was pure baseball theater. Puerto Rico hurler José de la Torre (a Triple A minor-league veteran) issued a questionable free pass to Yulieski Gourriel, setting up a force at each base but also bringing up the ever-dangerous Abreu. José Dariel promptly smacked de la Torre’s first delivery deep into the left field corner and when outfielder Jesus Feliciano dove for the game-ending catch the ball ricocheted off his glove into foul ground, sending Despaigne scampering home with the winning marker. Feliciano and manager José Flores protested long and loud after Abreu’s game-winning blast (the dispute being whether Feliciano actually touched the ball in fair or foul ground) but all to no avail as Cuba walked off with one of its strangest victories in the short four-year history of the IBAF extra-inning tie-breaker rule.
The scenario surrounding yet another USA-Cuba showdown now takes on huge significance since a ticket to the finals is squarely on the line for both clubs. In the light of its string of silver medal finishes in recent years Cuba desperately needs a gold medal prize to ease the mounting criticism from spoiled if always-exuberant fans back home. Also squarely on the line is Cuba’s remarkable record of either winning or at least making the final contest of every major international tournament since 1961 and the birth of the island’s revolutionary-era “amateur” baseball. (The single exception – neither a gold or silver medal – came with the second edition of MLB’s World Baseball Classic staged in March of 2009.) For their own part, the Americans – despite owning but a single Pan American Games title (in 1967, the last time Cuba didn’t walk off with the prize) – have nonetheless been frequent silver medal runners-up (nine times in all). And after failing to defend their World Cup trophy earlier this month in Panama, prestige is also squarely on the line for faltering USA Baseball. Gaining the title here in Guadalajara, while at the same time keeping Cuba out of the top two slots, could also narrow Cuba’s slim lead over the Americans in an ongoing race for the top slot in the semi-annual IBAF world baseball rankings.
Cuba’s Pan American Games ledger is indeed a sterling one to date. In fourteen previous Pan American Games tournaments to date (Cuba sat out the 1955 games in Mexico) the ledger is a remarkable dozen titles, with only one silver medal setback (to Team USA at Winnipeg in 1967) and one finish out of the money (in 1959 in Chicago, in the immediate aftermath of Fidel Castro’s January 1959 rise to power). Cuba’s current ongoing streak of ten straight titles includes an overall single-game mark of 73 victories and but 5 setbacks (two of which came in opening round of the 1999 Winnipeg games). By every measure except the actual length of such successes (14 tournaments as opposed to 31) Cuba’s overall domination of this event is every bit as impressive as its virtual “ownership” of IBAF World Cup competitions. The upside of the Pan American Games ledger is that while the World Cup has now brought three consecutive silver medals, Cuba’s uninterrupted gold medals run here in these less prestigious hemisphere games is still in tact at ten and counting.
YEAR-BY-YEAR PAN AMERICAN GAMES RESULTS
Cuba’s Overall Record: 12 Firsts (Gold Medal), 1 Second (1967); ten consecutive titles (1971-2007) and one finish lower than second place (in 1959); Individual games total of 95 wins – 14 losses (.872 Pct.). Other Winners: USA (1: 1967), Venezuela (1: 1959), Dominican Republic (1: 1955). ** Cuba did not participate in Mexico City in 1955 having lost most of its amateur talent to the pro-level Class B Havana Cubans (Florida International League) and Class A Cuban Sugar Kings (International League).
The upcoming showdown with Team USA likely will reprise a recent dramatic Panama slugfest between the two powerhouse teams that more than lived up to all the advanced hype. That recent game saw Cuba jump out early with three first-inning scores off American starter Jeff Marquez and then survive several USA rallies in an 8-7 thriller played at Santiago’s scenic Omar Torrijos Stadium. The difference in that one was Alfredo Despaigne’s booming two-run homer (with Cepeda aboard) off Marquez in the home third; the game’s ultimate hero, however, was closer Yadier Pedroso who struck out seven in three innings of clutch relief and fanned the American side during the emotion-charged final ninth frame.
A Cuba versus USA rematch here in Mexico also now provides an opportunity for both teams to soothe the pain of their recent disappointments in Panama. While a Pan Am gold medal might not entirely wash away the silver medal disappointment versus The Netherlands two weeks back, it will nonetheless assure a continued top IBAF world ranking. A loss for the Americans, in turn, will mean a particularly bitter month for the recent two-time defending champions. A shared bronze medal in Panama (earned by default when the third-place game was washed away by rain) represented a rather disappointing replay of last October’s Pre-Mundial event in San Juan (where a last-day rainout also produced an embarrassing third-place tie with Venezuela). To be faced with yet another third-place consolation game would hardly sit well for the country which still clings proudly to mythical ownership of the sport’s invention. The Americans thus have almost as much to lose in Monday afternoon’s semifinal showdown as do the once nearly invincible Cubans.
Peter C. Bjarkman is author of A History of Cuban Baseball, 1864-2006 (McFarland, 2007) and is widely recognized as a leading authority on Cuban baseball, both past and present. He has reported on Cuban League action and the Cuban national team for www.BaseballdeCuba.com during the past four years and is currently completing a book on the history of the post-revolution Cuban national team.