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Blackley turns in stellar outing for Aussies

MLB.com

TOKYO -- Travis Blackley was on the Australia team that lost to Cuba by one run in the 2009 World Baseball Classic.

"A heartbreaking loss," Blackley said. "We've been sitting on that for years."

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TOKYO -- Travis Blackley was on the Australia team that lost to Cuba by one run in the 2009 World Baseball Classic.

"A heartbreaking loss," Blackley said. "We've been sitting on that for years."

View Full Game Coverage

Now, thanks to what Blackley did Thursday in an 11-0 win over China, the Australians have a chance to do something about it. They'll play the Cubans again, at 10 p.m. ET on Thursday at Tokyo Dome, with the winner going to the second round of WBC 2017 and the loser going home.

:: 2017 World Baseball Classic ::

"We all believe, man," Blackley said.

Blackley originally believed he would be starting against Cuba, but manager Jon Deeble told him Australia couldn't afford to overlook China, needing a win to set up the matchup with Cuba. Blackley delivered with 4 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing two hits that didn't leave the infield and pitching so efficiently that he remained eligible to start a second-round game as soon as Sunday.

Now, Australia just needs to get there.

While Cuba has a richer baseball history and has never been eliminated in the first round of a World Baseball Classic, the Aussies believe they have closed the gap. Cuba has lost players that have left for the Major Leagues, and Australia has a team full of players with high-level experience playing in the Major or Minor Leagues.

Blackley, who has 82 appearances spread across five Major League teams, is part of that experienced core. After using Blackley against China, Deeble will turn to Warwick Saupold, who went 1-1 with a 7.45 ERA in six games with the Tigers last season, against Cuba.

Blackley last pitched in the Major Leagues with the 2013 Rangers, and he hopes this tournament can help him get back there. After pitching last season in Mexico, he signed a Minor League deal with the Tigers in the offseason.

"The game was getting younger and younger, and I wasn't," Blackley said. "The Tigers have shown they're willing to go with older players. I don't think I have to prove anything other than that I can throw strikes and keep the ball down."

Blackley was impressive against China, but he admits this wasn't the same as facing Major League hitters.

"I had everything to lose," Blackley said.

Australia, though, now has everything to win. While the Australians finished second to Cuba at the 2004 Athens Olympics, advancing to the second round of the World Baseball Classic would be a significant milestone.

"People don't realize baseball's the No. 10 sport in Australia," Deeble said. "What these players have done is amazing."

Now, with a win over Cuba, they would have a chance to do even more.

The World Baseball Classic runs through March 22. In the U.S., games air live exclusively in English on MLB Network and on an authenticated basis via MLBNetwork.com/watch, while ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN provide the exclusive Spanish-language coverage. MLB.TV Premium subscribers in the U.S. have access to watch every tournament game live on any of the streaming service's 400-plus supported devices. The tournament is being distributed internationally across all forms of television, internet, mobile and radio in territories excluding the U.S., Puerto Rico and Japan. Get tickets for games at Marlins Park, Tokyo Dome, Estadio Charros de Jalisco in Mexico, Petco Park, as well as the Championship Round at Dodger Stadium, while complete coverage -- including schedules, video, stats and gear -- is available at WorldBaseballClassic.com.

Danny Knobler is a contributor to MLB.com.

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