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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Confident Cubans to Face Japan

ATLANTA -- Cuba continued its unbeaten ways and Japan used five home runs to drub the host United States 11-2 in Olympic baseball, setting up a Cuba-Japan gold-medal match.


Orestes Kindelan hit his Olympic-record eighth homer Thursday for Cuba, the defending champion and undefeated in this tournament, in its 8-1 victory over Nicaragua.


Kindelan has sprayed homers into all three decks at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium and smashed the tournament home run and RBI records. He has driven in a record 17 runs and led Cuba to an Olympic record of 30 homers.


"Home runs just come," Kindelan said. "After you hit the first one, they keep on coming."


And the Cubans keep on winning. They have not lost an important game since 1987. By their count, their top national team has won its last 142 games.


The defending gold medalists have looked vulnerable in this tournament because of their pitching, which has been weakened by defections. They've had one extra-inning victory and two other victories of two runs or less.


But the most experienced team in the tournament seems to be able to come up with critical hits whenever it needs them.


Nicaragua, 4-4, felt it had a chance at an upset because of the starting pitching matchup. Nicaragua started 35-year-old Asdrudes Flores, the oldest pitcher in the tournament and the best on its staff.


Cuban manager Jorge Fuentes decided to save his best pitchers for the gold-medal game. He started Osmany Romero, who had the worst earned run average on his staff at 11.57.


Romero allowed five hits and one run over 5 2/3 innings. Omar Ajete, the Cubans' best left-handed reliever, allowed just one more hit after that.


That Fuentes let Ajete throw so long was a bit of a surprise.


"We don't think he threw too many pitches," Fuentes said. "I still think he could throw about 40 pitches tomorrow."


Nicaragua will play the United States, 6-2, for the bronze medal Friday.


The Americans wanted a rematch against Cuba, which beat them 10-8 in round-robin play, but Thursday's 11-2 drubbing by Japan ended those hopes and extended a record of losing big games to the Japanese.


Japan, which has a 5-3 record, hit three homers off Kris Benson, considered the top U.S. collegiate pitcher this year, and pulled away.