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Japan defeats Cuba 8-5, improves record to 2-0 in second round of WBC

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Team Japan is atop Pool E in the second round of the World Baseball Classic after defeating Team Cuba 8-5 on Tuesday morning. The game was a back-and-forth affair, but Japan was able to rally when it mattered most to remain undefeated.

Tetsuto Yamada set Japan up with an early lead, swatting a solo home run to left-center in the bottom of the first. Cuba responded in the second thanks to a two-run home run from Yurisbel Gracial. In what would become a theme, Japan tied the game again shortly thereafter in the third inning when Yoshitomo Tsutsugoh singled in a run, knotting the game at 2-2.

Cuba plated two more in the fourth on a two-run single from Victor Mesa. Japan rallied again for a tie in the fifth when Norichika Aoki drove in a run with a ground out and Tsutsugoh singled in another run, making it a 4-4 contest.

Cuba’s Yosvani Alarcon broke the tie with an RBI single in the sixth and Japan re-tied the game in the bottom half on Seiji Kobayashi’s RBI single.

In the bottom of the eighth, Japan regained the lead for the first time since the first inning. The rally began when Nobuhiro Matsuda reached safely when first baseman Willian Saavedra couldn’t scoop a low throw on a routine grounder. Shogo Akiyama singled to left-center, pushing Matsuda to third. Seiichi Uchikawa then lifted a sacrifice fly to right field, giving Japan a 6-5 lead. Tetsuto Yamada followed up by swatting a two-run home run to left field — his second homer of the game — bumping Japan’s lead to 8-5.

Japan reliever Kazuhisa Makita started the ninth inning protecting a three-run lead. He struck out Yosvani Alarcon, got Jeferson Delgado to ground out, then struck out Mesa to end the ballgame in an 8-5 victory.

Japan will play Team Israel on Wednesday morning. A win will certainly push them into the semifinals against the runner-up of Pool F. Cuba will attempt to stave off elimination when they play Team Netherlands on Tuesday night.

Venezuela rallies in 9th inning to defeat Italy 4-3 in WBC tiebreaker

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Team Venezuela defeated Team Italy 4-3 in Monday night’s Group D tiebreaker, earning the right to advance to the second round — Pool F — of the World Baseball Classic.

Italy took an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning when John Andreoli doubled and promptly scored on a Daniel Descalso RBI single off of Venezuela starter Omar Bencomo.

Venezuela finally crossed the plate in the top of the sixth as Alcides Escobar led off with a walk and Odubel Herrera reached on a throwing error. Then, after Escobar was forced out at third base on a grounder, Ender Inciarte grounded a single to right field on a ball deflected by first baseman Chris Colabello, plating Herrera to tie the game at one apiece.

Andreoli broke the tie in the seventh inning, drilling a solo home run to right-center field off of Jose Alvarado, giving Italy a 2-1 lead.

Italy reliever Tiago Da Silva kept Venezuela off the board in the eighth, but Mike De Mark started the ninth by serving up a game-tying solo home run to Miguel Cabrera. DeMark then walked Victor Martinez and allowed a long go-ahead RBI single to Rougned Odor that was several inches from becoming a two-run home run. Odor thought it was a homer off the bat, which is why he didn’t run hard and was held to a single. Lefty Frailyn Florian relieved DeMark and gave up a single to right field to Carlos Gonzalez. Gonzalez tried to stretch it into a double and was tagged when he slid off the bag. Alcides Escobar then laid down a suicide squeeze bunt to give Venezuela an insurance run at 4-2.

The drama didn’t end there. With veteran MLB closer Francisco Rodriguez on the hill attempting to nail down the game, Alex Liddi led off the bottom of the ninth by crushing a solo home run to center field, cutting Italy’s deficit to 4-3. From there, Rodriguez was able to settle down, getting Gavin Cecchini, Drew Maggi, and Andreoli to ground out consecutively to end the game in a 4-3 victory for Venezuela.

Venezuela (2-2) joins Puerto Rico (3-0) from Pool D into Pool F, along with the Dominican Republic (3-0) and the United States (2-1) coming from Pool C. Venezuela kicks off play in the second round on Wednesday night at Petco Park against the United States.

Ian Desmond to undergo hand surgery

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Rockies first baseman Ian Desmond will undergo surgery to fix his broken left hand, Nick Groke of the Denver Post reports. Desmond suffered the injury on Sunday afternoon during a Cactus League game against the Reds. Rookie Davis hit him on the hand with a fastball.

A recovery timetable is not yet known, but Groke suggests it could be between several weeks and multiple months.

Mark Reynolds is likely to fill in at first base while Desmond is out. Last season, the 33-year-old hit .282/.356/.450 with 14 home runs and 53 RBI in 441 plate appearances.

Desmond, meanwhile, has had a nightmarish start to his first year with the Rockies after signing a five-year, $70 million contract in December. He hit .285/.335/.446 with 22 home runs and 86 RBI with the Rangers last season and represented the Rockies’ marquee acquisition of the offseason.