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Cuba whitewashes Mexico to top group

YULIESKI Gourriel, Ariel Pestano and Frederich Cepeda all homered to help Cuba rout Mexico 16-4 in seven innings on Thursday to secure first place in Group B at the World Baseball Classic.

Pestano and Cepeda each hit three-run homers in a nine-run seventh inning to lead Cuba to a win by the mercy rule. Gourriel hit a two-run homer in a five-run fourth and finished with four RBI's.

"Mexico and Cuba ... it was a tough game, we had to play to win it, but at the same time, we needed to keep our pitchers fresh because we were both thinking in the next round," Cuba manager Higinio Velez said after the match.

Yulieski Gonzalez (1-0) got the win, giving up one hit with three strikeouts in two innings of relief for Cuba.

Mexico will open the second round on Sunday in San Diego against South Korea, winner of Group A in Tokyo, while Cuba will face Japan in a rematch of the 2006 WBC final won by Japan.

Elsewhere, after trading barbs with Carlos Zambrano in his first two at-bats for Japan, Kosuke Fukodome singled in a run to help lift his WBC squad over his Chicago Cubs teammates 3-2.

"He was like, 'You got me,' and I said, 'Hit it if you can,'" Zambrano said. "We were kidding around, having fun with my teammates."

Cubs manager Lou Piniella got his first glimpse of Fukudome this spring because the outfielder remained in Japan to train for the Classic.

"He made some contact and drove in a run," Piniella said. "He looked good in center field."

Zambrano allowed two runs - one earned - and three hits with a walk and two strikeouts in four innings against Japan, which was into the second round of the Classic. He has a 3.00 ERA in nine innings this spring with 10 strikeouts and two walks.

Zambrano also denied a report that he might be available for Venezuela in the second round.


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