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Cuba routs US, will play Korea for gold

Beijing, China (Sports Network) - Cuba's baseball team rolled to a 10-2 victory over the United States on Friday to set up a meeting with undefeated Korea in the gold medal game at the Beijing Olympics.

The Cubans scored six runs in the eighth inning to break open a tight game and clinch its berth in Saturday's final. They won the gold medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

The U.S. will face Japan in the bronze medal game, also on Saturday. It will be the first chance the Americans have to win an Olympic medal in baseball since claiming gold at the 2000 Sydney Games.

They didn't qualify for the tournament in Athens four years ago.

"I'll talk to them. They're a pretty good group of guys. They're not a group of guys that I need to motivate a whole lot," said U.S. manager Davey Johnson.

Earlier, Korea scored four runs in the eighth inning to beat Japan, 6-2, and earn its berth in the gold medal game. The Koreans (8-0) are the only undefeated team in the Olympic baseball tournament.

The loss dropped the Americans to 5-3, their first defeat in five games. Cuba improved to 7-1 and will get a chance to avenge a loss to the Koreans on Tuesday.

It was scoreless until Cuba jumped on the board with two runs in the bottom of the third inning. Giorbis Duvergel reached on a one-out single, and Hector Olivera followed with a triple into the right-center field gap. Both runners scored on the play -- Olivera after the throw got by third base.

The U.S. halved its deficit on Matt Brown's sacrifice fly in the top of the fourth, but Cuba came right back to make it 3-1 on Alfredo Despaigne's solo homer to left-center field in the bottom of the inning.

A one-out rally in the fifth got the U.S. within a run again when Jason Donald's broken-bat single up the middle scored Lou Marsdon.

But Cuba responded with another homer in the sixth inning, Frederich Cepeda's solo blast into the top of the bleachers in left field, to make it 4-2. Brian Duensing, in his second inning of relief for U.S. starter Stephen Strasburg, surrendered the blast.

The six-run Cuban rally in the eighth inning was keyed by three-run homers from Alexei Bell and Ariel Pestano.

Strasburg (1-1) took the loss, while Cuban starter Norge Luis Vera (2-0) earned the win with six solid innings.

In the earlier game, Lee Seungyuop's two-run homer keyed the four-run Korea rally in the eight that broke a 2-2 tie.

"The victory doesn't mean that the Korean team is stronger than the Japanese team and when two strong teams meet each other an important factor is luck," said Korean manager Kim Kyungmoon, "and I think we are luckier than the Japanese today."

08/22 12:29:26 ET


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