Pinch-hitter Yosbany Peraza hit a two-run homer in the eighth inning to give Cuba a 5-4 win over Australia on Tuesday, earning a spot in the second round of the World Baseball Classic.
Cuba, the 2006 runner-up, is 2-0 and grabbed the first ticket from Group B for the next round in San Diego. Australia (1-1) and Mexico (1-1) will play on Wednesday to determine who will join Cuba in the second round. The Australians thrashed Mexico 17-7 in their opening game.
With two outs and Youlieski Gourriel on base, Pereza replaced Joan Carlos Pedroso in the batting lineup and sent reliever Richard Thompson's fourth pitch into the left field stands.
"I knew I had to hit a big one," Peraza said.
Cuba closer Ismael Jimenez, who pitched 2-2/3 shutout innings, did not allow an Australian runner on base in the eight or ninth, and the favorites hung on for a closer-than-expected win against an Australia team that almost snatched a famous win.
"It's a team that has always given us a fight," said Cuba manager Higinio Velez.
Cuba had opened the scoring in the third inning with Frederich Cepeda's RBI single off Australia starting pitcher Travis Blackley.
Australia tied it in the fourth when Luke Hughes doubled and Ben Risinger followed with a run-scoring single off Cuba starter Aroldis Chapman.
Yoennis Cespedes put the Cubans ahead 2-1 with a solo home run in the top of the sixth, but the lead was short-lived as Australia replied with three runs in the bottom half.
Reliever Norberto Gonzalez walked Hughes, who made it to third following a balk and Chris Snelling's sacrifice. Pedro Luis Lazo replaced Gonzalez on the mound, and the veteran pitcher immediately allowed a run-scoring line drive by Justin Huber.
With two outs, Michael Collins hit a single and the two runners advanced to second and third following a poor throw to second base by Lazo. A walk to Brad Harman loaded the bases and James Beresford knocked in two runs with a line drive to left field to put the Australians up 4-2.
The Cubans cut the deficit with Michel Enrique's RBI double in the seventh.
Ismel Jimenez (1-0) tossed 2 2-3 shutout innings to seal it for Cuba.
After the game, Australian coach Jon Deeble, who complained that the Cuban lineup he received before the game was different to the batting order in the game.
The original lineup had Alexander Mayeta batting fifth, but once the game started Mayeta batted seventh and Alfredo Despaigne was in the fifth spot.
Deeble said it was "a lack of respect" from the Cubans and that it was typical of the Cuba team.
Velez replied "I don't know who made the mistake but it wasn't us"
The Cuba manager said he handed in the correct lineup half an hour before the start. "We are principled, very professional. Cuba does not do that kind of thing."