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Team Cuba beat the Chunichi Dragons, 3-2, in their second preparation match

After terrific relief work by Naykel Cruz, Luis Vicente Mateo delivered the decisive hit After losing its first practice match to the Nippon-Ham Fighters on February 17, the Cuban national team partially recovered this Sunday morning when it beat the Chunichi Dragons of the Central League of the Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) League in Okinawa, 3-2. Box score In these preliminary matches for the V World Baseball Classic, Cuba now has a 1-1 record, and next will face the Tokyo Yakult Swallows of the NPB on February 20 at 10:30 pm (ET). The Cubans opened up a 1-0 lead in the first inning against right-handed starter Hiroshi Suzuki, who pitched five excellent innings, allowing just five hits, one earned run, one walk, and one strikeout. With one out, Yoelkis Guibert hit a double to center field. Yurisbel Gracial moved him to third on a groundout by the shortstop, while Alfredo Despaigne drove in the run with a single behind the shortstop's position. After Yadir Drake walked, Cuba could have extended its lead, but Dayán Garca grounded out to shortstop with runners on second and first. Cuba threatened Suzuki in the second inning when Roel Santos singled to center and Guibert followed with an infield single. However, Gracial hit into a double play, while Despaigne grounded out to shortstop for the third out. Cuban pitching this time had a different face. During the first three innings, Carlos Juan Viera did a good job, partly due to his defense, especially catcher Ariel Martinez, who initially slowed Chunichi's speed game. As a result of an error by third baseman Gracial and a single to the right of third base, Viera had runners on the corners with only one out in the first inning. It was catcher Ariel Martinez who made a great throw to second. This put out the runner from first trying to steal, and then the Cuban starter struck out the next batter to end the threat. During that first inning Viera threw 16 pitches, but only four were outside the strike zone. The Japanese team began the third inning with a runner on first via a single to center. However, in an inning where the Japanese should have tied the game, the runner was put out by another stellar throw from the Cuban catcher to second base García. A couple of batters later, Viera would accept a double to deep center, but he would force a ground out to Drake at first base to finish the inning. As the right-hander left the mound at the end of the third inning, he had thrown 36 pitches, including 25 strikes, and finished his job with two strikeouts and three hits, including a double, but no walks in a competent performance. Despite issuing a walk, Liván Moinelo followed Viera on the mound in the fourth inning. Right-hander Marlon Vega faced no difficulty despite getting a batter on base in the fifth, but an inning later he would not have the same luck. In that inning, Vega could only get one out of the five men he faced due to a lack of control. Tanaka started the inning with a single to right, moving to second on a steal. A single by Fukunaga put runners at the corners. Vega retired the next batter after hitting a line drive to García at second. However, a walk to the next man loaded the bases. Another walk forced the tying run, sending Vega back to the bench, as Ukai's sacrifice to left field drove in the 2-1 lead against left-handed reliever Naykel Cruz. Cruz saved the inning by retiring the last batter on a flyout to left. From that moment on, the young Cuban reliever became a true bulwark, retiring six batters in a row with a strikeout, as well as being assisted by his defense. In the seventh inning, shortstop Mateo stopped a ball that threatened to enter center field for the second out of the inning. In the eighth, Yoelkis Guibert made a terrific fielding catch in right center field for the second out of the inning. Cruz earned the victory for his work. Cuba responded by tying the game in the top of the seventh against right-handed reliever Hiroto Mori. Yadir Drake started the inning with a long double off the bottom of the center field fence. He moved to third with a groundout, but Ariel Marítnez did a great job getting a deep ball in left field to drive in Drake from third. The national team made a threat against Fukushima in the top of the eighth inning. Mateo started the inning with a single and a sacrifice bunt by Santos put him at second. After Guibert had given up the second out, a walk to Gracial had everything ready for Despaigne. But the Cuban cleanup hitter gave up the third out on a soft groundball to the catcher who completed the play with a throw at first. In the ninth episode, the game was decided. With one out in the inning, Dayán García singled to center against right-hander Kento Fujishima, advanced to second on a wild pitch, and when pinch-hitter Andrys Pérez gave up the second out, another pinch-hitter, Yadil Mujica, walked. The scene was set for Mateo's single to left that brought home García with the decisive run. As Franklyn Quintana closed the ninth inning, he quickly found himself in trouble accepting a hit from the first batter. Minutes later, Chunichi's speed got the runner on second after a defensive blink from the Cuban catcher with no outs. But in the end, Quintana didn't blink. He earned the save by striking out the next two batters with his breaking ball and retiring Ryuku on a groundout to first baseman Drake. The Cuban line-up for this game was as follows: #1 Roel Santos, CF (1-for-4, SH) #7 Yoelkis Guibert, RF (2-for-4, 2B, R) #27 Yurisbel Gracial, 3B (0-for-3, GIDP, BB) #54 Alfredo Despaigne, DH (1-for-4, RBI) #33 Yadir Drake, 1B (1-for-4, 2B, R) #44 Dayán García, 2B (1-for-4, R) #40 Ariel Martínez, C (0-for-2, SO, SF, RBI) #17 Andrys Pérez, PH (0-for-1) #15 Guillermo García, LF (1-for-3) #5 Yadil Mujica, PH (BB) #8 Luis V. Mateo, SS (2-for-4, RBI) #83 Carlos J. Viera, L (3.0 IP, 3 H, 2B, 2 SO, 0 BB) In an interview with the Cuban digital newspaper Jit, mentor Armando Johnson made the following remarks.

On Sunday, Cuba's national team defeated the Chunichi Dragons of NPB 3-2 in preparation for the V World Baseball Classic.

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