Australia, Cuba set for showdown
Two clubs combined for 10 homers in opening games of Pool B
By Chris Ramirez / Special to MLB.com
The two clubs combined to hit 10 home runs on Sunday in the opening games of Pool B. Cuba's six shots set a Classic record, breaking the previous mark of four, set by the Dominican Republic in 2006.
Australia hit four home runs of its own in a rout of host Mexico, but the larger number was the 22 hits the team recorded, setting a Classic record for a single game.
Though they're not traditional rivals, a showdown of significant importance between Australia and Cuba should come as no surprise. They met at the Athens Olympics in 2004, when Cuba defeated Australia to capture the gold medal, and their paths have continued to cross since.
The winner of this game locks up a spot in the second round.
"Last year we played them twice, and we had a one-run lead in the ninth, and they beat us in extra innings," Australia manager Jon Deeble said. "We're not afraid of them, and I know their manager says that they weren't worried about Mexico, they were worried about us, and rightly so."
If the Australians plan on validating the concern held by Cuba manager Higinio Velez, they'll have to get more out of their starting pitching. Lefty Craig Anderson took the mound against Mexico but was removed two batters into the second inning. He completed only one inning of work, allowing six runs, five earned, on six hits.
After defeating South Africa with ease, 8-1, in their opening game, the Cubans have little on their minds other than to show they're ready for the long haul.
"The team is doing well," Velez said on Monday. "They are prepared physically, technically and psychologically. A team that knows the responsibility that it has, that knows it finished in second place in the first Classic, is responsible for having a good result."
Chris Ramirez is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.