I just returned from the Cuba-DR semifinal game. And what a game! Another close one. Cuba won, 3-1, to secure a place in the final Monday, against either Japan or South Korea. The game was 0-0 till the Dominicans scored an unearned run in the 6th. After a dominating start by Bartolo Colon of the Angels, Cuba broke through off Odalis Perez (of the other LA team), Solomon Torres, and Julian Tavarez with a three-run seventh.
Cuba got terrific pitching from Yadel Marti (4 1/3) and Pedro Luis Lazo (4 2/3). Both have very distinctive windups. Marti’s style is something I have never seen before. He kicks the leg up (not very high, but abruptly), then holds it there for a moment (a bit like Akinori Otsuka), and then sort of corkscrews back a bit before turning forward to deliver the pitch. However, he got into considerable trouble with some wildness in a first inning that he looked like he might not escape. The rest of his time in the game he pitched only from the stretch. Lazo has a nice assortment of pitches, including a very hard fastball, whereas Marti seems to be much more of a finesse pitcher. Lazo pitched out of a first-and-third, no out, jam in the 6th, allowing just the one unearned run, depite facing the “muderers row” of Miguel Tejada, Albert Pujols (who grounded into a fielder’s choice in which the runner at third was out in a rundown), David Ortiz, Adrian Beltre (who was safe on a bobble and overthrow by second baseman Yuliesky Gouriel), and Moises Alou.
Cuba’s rally began on consecutive infield singles by Gouriel and Elier Sanchez, an RBI ground out, two singles (which actually made it to the outfield grass), and a sacrifice fly.
I could watch this kind of baseball all the time. Dominant pitching, great infield defense (Cuba made three errors, but also some excellent plays). Lots of aggressive (but not reckless) baserunning, hit-and-run plays, and only two balls hit to even medium depth in the outfield the entire game by either side.
It was a great atmosphere, with a crowd about evenly divided in its rooting interest, and including many Cuban- and Dominican-Americans. Most of the crowd stayed long enough to watch the Cuban players celebrate on the field and to salute them as they headed back to their dugout.
The ceremonial first pitch was thrown out by Juan Marichal. And, yes, he delivered it with his trademark high leg kick (though perhaps not quite as high as when he was younger).