An article in Tuesday's paper on the United States's baseball loss to Cuba in the Goodwill Games incorrectly stated that the U.S. team won baseball tournaments in the 1984 and 1988 Olympic Games. Japan defeated the United States in the 1984 demonstration tournament. (Published 8/2/90)

TACOMA, JULY 30 -- There was one sad fact for the U.S. baseball team tonight at the Goodwill Games: It lost to Cuba by just three runs fewer than it beat the Soviet Union last week.

Unlike the Soviet Union, which took up baseball just three years ago, the United States and Cuba have played this game for a long, long time. So when the Americans beat the Soviets, 17-0, last week in the first game played between the national teams of the two countries, no one thought much of it.

Tonight, however, there was something to think about. The Cubans pounded the United States, 16-2, in front of a capacity crowd of 8,027 at Cheney Stadium, and it could have been worse, had the 10-run mercy rule not been invoked in the seventh inning.

"I'm not surprised," Cuban star Omar Linares said after going five for five. "The pitches weren't very tough. I felt real good to be able to connect with them."

The Cubans are the best "amateur" team in the world, and the U.S. team is young, full of college-aged players. But, still. How bad was it for the Americans? Cuba's leadoff hitter, German Mesa, ended up with four RBI. Every Cuban in the starting lineup scored at least one run. Thirteen batters went to the plate in the second inning, when Cuba scored seven runs. The No. 9 hitter, Victor Mesa, went two for two with two runs scored and one RBI. Cuba had 19 hits.

This means Cuba (4-0) will play the winner of tonight's late game between Japan (3-0) and Canada (2-1) for the gold medal Tuesday. Japan beat the United States, 7-6, in 14 innings earlier in the tournament. The United States (2-2) will play the loser of the Japan-Canada game for the bronze medal.

After a scoreless first inning, Cuba scored seven runs on seven hits in the second inning when 13 batters went to the plate. U.S. starter Joey Hamilton of Georgia Southern, who gave up six of the runs, was pulled after eight batters, but that didn't stop the onslaught. The Cubans added three more runs in the third off reliever Paul Byrd of Louisiana State. No Cuban hit in either inning was longer than a double.

Until the seventh, and last, inning, the Americans could not get a runner to third base off Cuban starter Osvaldo Fernandez, who threw a four-hitter. Only three U.S. players made it to second until the seventh, when second baseman Brent Gates, who plays at Minnesota, doubled off the wall to drive in Joe Ciccarella of Loyola Marymount. The Americans scored their second run moments later on a groundout.

The Cubans usually win these games. They are recognized as the best baseball team this side of the major leagues, a team that has won 19 of 22 world championships. (One of the three they didn't win, they didn't attend.)

The Cubans won the 1987 Pan American Games, the last time they met the United States in a multisport international event. But the U.S. team did win a game against Cuba before losing in the gold-medal final.

The Cubans have not been at an Olympics where baseball has been played. At the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, baseball was a demonstration sport, but the Cubans boycotted. At the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, baseball was a medal sport, but the Cubans again chose not to attend. Both Olympic baseball tournaments have been won by the United States.

But just last week, the Americans found out the Cubans were vulnerable. The two teams played a three-game series, the first in Havana, the second two in Nashville, and the United States won two of the three. The Cubans won the first game at home, 15-3, then lost to the Americans, 6-5 and 1-0. It was the first time the United States has won a series from Cuba.

The age difference between the two clubs is drastic. Only one American player has turned 21, pitcher Phillip Stidham of Arkansas. A majority of the Americans were born in the 1970s. They were hastily assembled and are going to be good, someday.

The Cubans, on the other hand, average 28 years of age. First baseman Lourdes Gourriel, who had a double and single with one RBI in the seven-run second inning, is 33, the second-oldest player on the Cuban team. He has played in four world championships, two Pan Am Games, two Central American Games and six Intercontinental Cup competitions. In this tournament, he was eight for 13 (a .615 average) coming into this game.

The best Cuban player is Linares, the third baseman who is just 22 but already has played in two world championships and the 1987 Pan Am Games. He was hitting .455 here before the U.S. game, not quite up to his usual standard, but did this at bat today: double, double, single, double, double.

He is known as "The Jose Canseco who stayed home." For rather obvious reasons.

United States ...000...000...2...2...4...0

Cuba ..........073...411...x...16...19...1

Hamilton, Byrd (2), Paxton (4) and Tallman; Fernandez and Rodriguez, Hernandez (7). W: Fernandez. L: Hamilton.