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Cuba avoids elimination with a win over Mexico
Then they kept on hitting once the second-round World Baseball Classic game started, pounding out 11 hits to roll to a 7-3 victory over Mexico and move within a victory of the tournament semifinals this weekend at Dodger Stadium.

Cuba, the WBC runnerup in 2006, will play the loser of tonight's Korea-Japan game on Wednesday with the winner advancing to Los Angeles. Mexico, meanwhile, was eliminated from the tournament with its second loss in as many nights. Mexico was also eliminated in the second round of the inaugural WBC three years ago.

One Cuban who probably didn't need the extra hitting was left fielder Frederich Cepeda, who came into Monday night's game leading the team in nearly every offensive category. And he improved all those numbers against Mexico, driving in four runs with a double and two singles, scoring once and taking over the tournament lead in hits (12) and RBI (10) while raising his average to .600.

But Cepeda dismissed questions about whether he's the most valuable player in the tournament.

"The main objective here is the team," he said. "If we can move on to semifinals and win, that would be the best I could take out of this Classic. As far as my personal goals, I am a team player and the most valuable player will be the team. Always."

Cuba scored in the first inning on a pair of two-out walks and Yulieski Gourriel's run-scoring single that hit the mound and bounced into center field, then made it 2-0 two innings later by bunching three singles, the final one a blooping fly ball into center by Cepeda.

Mexico answered quickly, tying the score on a two-out RBI single by Angels' minor leaguer Freddy Sandoval in the third and Scott Hairston's bases-loaded groundout in the fourth.

But Cepeda broke the game open an inning later with a three-run double to center.

Cuba added two more in the seventh on a two-run triple by Yoennis Cespedes while Mexico closed out the scoring with solo homers by Jorge Cantu in the eighth and Christian Presichi in the ninth off Cuba's Pedro Luis Lazo.

In addition to Cepeda, leadoff hitter Leonys Martin, making his first start of the tournament, and little-used second baseman Hector Olivera had two hits each, as did Gourriel.

The win nearly proved costly, though, since Cuba lost ace Norge Vera to an apparent injury to his right calf with two outs in the fifth. Vera, who would be a candidate to start in the tournament final should Cuba get that far, scattered three hits and struck out five over 4 2/3 innings to earn his second win in as many WBC starts.

Velez said Vera was examined at a hospital, then returned to the ballpark during the game and is expected to be ready to pitch by the weekend.


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