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Cuba, Japan clinch second-round berths in WBC

(Reuters) - Cuba powered its way to the second round of the World Baseball Classic on Monday with a 12-0 rout of China that was stopped in the seventh inning because of the mercy rule at Yafuoku Dome in Fukuoka, Japan.

Jose Abreu crowned the Cuban triumph with a grand slam home run as Cuba improved to 2-0 in Pool A competition to join Japan into the next round, to be played at the Tokyo Dome.

Japan, winner of the first two editions of baseball's elite international competition in 2006 and 2009, also advanced thanks to a victory over inexperienced China in Fukuoka, posting a 5-2 victory over them on Sunday.

The reigning champions benefitted from a sterling performance from starting pitcher Kenta Maeda, who limited China to one hit and struck out six over five scoreless innings.

Four teams will compete in Tokyo for the right to advance to the final round at San Francisco's AT&T Park, where the semi-finals and final of the 16-team tournament will be played.

In Pool B play in Taichung, Taiwan, South Korea stayed in the hunt for a second-round berth by shutting out Australia 6-0 on Monday after taking charge early with three runs in the top of the first inning.

While Australia is last in Pool B with two losses, it still have a chance to advance with a victory over the Netherlands and a Taiwan victory against South Korea.

Taiwan leads the group with two wins, while the Netherlands and South Korea have one win each.

(Reporting by Larry Fine in New York, Editing by Frank Pingue)

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