03/13/2006 8:55 PM ET
Must-win situation for 1-1 Cubans on Wednesday
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
SAN JUAN -- Last week, Puerto Rico handed Cuba its most embarrassing loss in 23 years. The chance for payback comes Wednesday night.
The two teams will meet again at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in what amounts to be a must-win for Cuba, which beat Venezuela in the Round 2 opener but lost Monday to the Dominican Republic. Wednesday's game is scheduled to start just after 8 p.m. ET.
Puerto Rico beat Cuba last week, 12-2, in a game called after seven innings because of the 10-run mercy rule. Cuba had not lost a game in that fashion since 1983, and it had not lost at all in its last 19 games of international competition.
"The game against Puerto Rico showed us we have to alter our preparation, and some of our strategy," said Cuba manager Higinio Velez said. "The boys are well prepared, and ready to play with a much better result."
Yuliesky Gonzalez started Cuba's first-round game against Puerto Rico, but he pitched 1 2/3 innings at the end of Monday's game and it remains unclear who will pitch Wednesday night. Velez declined interview requests after Monday's game.
Despite its 7-3 loss to the Dominican Republic, Cuba remains a world power.
"I've got to give credit to the Cuban team," Dominican manager Manny Acta said. "I can see why they're dominating international competition. They are true players, [and have] pretty good pitching that they throw out there. Most of those guys were hitting low 90s with sharp breaking balls and good changeup and location."
Star second baseman Yulieski Gourriel hit a solo home run in the seventh inning Monday, but was hit by a pitch in the eighth and left the game with an apparent injury.
Gourriel is hitting .316 in the tournament and his status for Wednesday is unknown.
"Gourriel is as good as advertised," Acta said. "I mean, when you can turn fastballs as I've seen him do in the game, and late in the first round ... I think he'll be able to survive in the big leagues and be a good player once he learns how to control the outer half of the plate, too."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.