Frederich Cepeda isn't in the World Baseball Classic for stats, although he certainly has some spectacular ones.
"I think that the main objective here is the team," Cepeda said after his smoking-hot bat helped Cuba stick around in the WBC with a 7-4 win over Mexico in an elimination game on Monday night. "And if we can move forward to the next stage, that would be the best I could take out of this classic."
Cepeda was 3-for-4 with a walk and four RBIs, including a bases-clearing double in the fifth inning. He's tied for the lead in the WBC with a .600 average (12-for-20) and tops all WBC batters with 10 RBIs.
The game drew a crowd of only 9,329 to 42,000-seat Petco Park even though San Diego is just across the border from Tijuana and three members of the Padres play for Mexico.
Cuba will play another elimination game on Wednesday night against the loser of Tuesday night's game between Japan and South Korea. The Japan-South Korea winner qualifies for the semifinals at Dodger Stadium on Saturday.
Cuba made it to the championship game of the inaugural WBC in 2006 at Petco Park before losing 10-6 to Daisuke Matsuzaka and Japan.
Cuba starter Norge Luis Vera left the game during the bottom of the fifth when he appeared to hurt his right calf. Vera's right leg buckled on his follow-through after a pitch to Freddy Sandoval and he fell to the ground. After being tended to, Vera walked off the field with team doctor Antonio Castro, son of former Cuban president Fidel Castro.
Vera (2-0) went 4 2-3 innings, allowing two runs and three hits while striking out five and walking two.
With the score tied at 2, Cuba loaded the bases in the fifth on two singles and a walk before Cepeda doubled to the base of the wall in right-center off Jorge Campillo of the Atlanta Braves to clear the bases.
"I think that Frederich is important, not only his turn at bat, but in every aspect of the game," said Pedro Lazo, who pitched the final 4 1-3 innings in relief of Vera. "He said, 'Don't worry, we're winning,' and then he pulls through."
Yoennis Cespedes added a two-run triple in the seventh.
Campillo (1-1) allowed five runs and eight hits in four innings.
Yulieski Gourriel singled in Cuba's first run in the first and Cepeda hit an RBI single in the third.
Jorge Cantu homered in the eighth and Christian Presichi in the ninth for Mexico, both off Lazo, who got the save. Lazo struck out six.
"I think that we didn't do the small things," Presichi said. "Unfortunately we did not do the things we had to."
Mexico struggled offensively in two games at Petco Park.
"This is a difficult park, if not the most difficult in the majors. Mexico is a power team and we didn't do it."
Mexico also got runs on Sandoval's single in the third and Scott Hairston's groundout in the fourth.
Mexico finished 2-4 in the WBC, losing twice to Cuba.
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