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Cuba Defeats US in Olympic Baseball, Heads into Gold Medal Round

Cuba defeated the United States Olympic baseball team Friday night, 10-2, to reach the gold medal match at the Beijing Summer Games. VOA Sports Editor Parke Brewer was at the contest at the Wukesong Sports Center and has a report.

For the Chinese fans in the crowd who don't read or understand English -- much less understand the American game of baseball -- it must have been a bit frustrating to completely follow the action.

Unlike other sports at the Beijing Olympics where the scoreboards and big screen videos display both English and Chinese, and the public address announcers say everything in English and Chinese at the baseball stadium everything was only in English.

And only a small number of fans knew to stand up and sing along to "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" during the traditional seventh inning stretch.

And during that seventh inning, the semifinal baseball game between the United States and defending Olympic champion Cuba was still close, with Cuba holding a 4-2 lead.

But it all changed in the bottom of the eighth inning, as Cuba got three-run home runs from right fielder Alexei Bell and catcher Ariel Pestano to put the game out of reach at 10-2. And that's the way it ended.

Second baseman Hector Olivera, whose triple in the third inning drove in Cuba's first run of the game, said, through an interpreter, that the offense came through when it needed to.

"We weren't expecting such a large margin tonight," he said. "As you all know USA is a very strong team, but after we scored, we did not relax and we kept going on so we widened the gap. Of course, in such important games, both teams have pressures, but we managed to handle that pressure and won by such a large margin."

The victory puts Cuba into the Olympic gold medal game on Saturday against South Korea, who the Cubans lost to in round-robin play.

The United States will play Japan for the bronze medal.

U.S. coach Davey Johnson acknowledged that without Major League Baseball players competing at the Olympics, the Americans are at a disadvantage, but can still be competitive.

"It's very difficult for us because Major League Baseball is a very big business and a lot of players who have potential to play in the big leagues, they're either called up [to the majors from the minor leagues] or they are not allowed to come here," he said. "But I think that definitely the players that we do get should be represented, and we can compete on the world stage at any time."

It won't be an issue at the next Olympics, because baseball has been dropped from the sports schedule for the London Summer Games in 2012.