Tag Archive | "Japan"

Premier 12: Japan Announces it will form Dream Team

With the Premier 12 making its debut this coming November in Japan and Taiwan, a few teams are not taking this for granted and going all out to make an impact.

Former big leaguer Carlos Guillen has been named the manager for the No. 10 ranked Venezuela club. His first big test at the helm will be the inaugural Premier 12 event.

Another big announcement came down today when Samurai Japan leader Hiroki Kokubo announced he will form a dream team with Japan’s biggest names to compete. The tournament will take place from November 8-21.

The even will be the first of its kind with the top 12 ranking international teams invited to the tournament. Competing will be: No. 1 Japan, No. 2 USA, No. 3 Cuba, No. 4 Chinese Taipei, No. 5 Netherlands, No. 6 Dominican Republic, No. 7 Canada, No. 8 South Korea, No. 9 Puerto Rico, No. 10 Venezuela, No. 11 Italy, and No. 12 Mexico. The event will give away millions in US$ prize money and also the most world ranking points of any international event.

The semifinals and finals of the event will be hosted by Japan at the Tokyo Dome. Who will come out on top remains to be seen but it will definitely be worth watching.

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Japan Replaces USA in 2015 World Port Tournament

Team USA has pulled out of the biannual World Port Tournament for 2015. Due to a full schedule Team USA has decided it will not participate. Japan will replace them in Rotterdam for the biannual event.

The four other teams participating will be the host Netherlands, Curacao, Cuba, and Chinese Taipei. The 2015 tournament will take place in Rotterdam from June 18-26.

This will be only Japan’s third time in the tournament that has been dominated by Cuba over the years. However, the hosts have won two of the last three events including 2013.

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Looking Forward to 2015 at Baseball de World

With 2014 coming to a close, we thought this would be a good time to look back at the world of baseball and discuss some of the major events and championships that took place. Over the next week or two we will be recapping all of the major leagues from around the world. So in case you missed it, and we did as well for some because of how busy 2014 was, stay tuned and check out what happened around the world.

In 2015 we hope to bring a few more things to the site including more writing on independent baseball leagues throughout the USA. These leagues have garnered my attention more and more over the past few years. They not only interest me in the ways they handle themselves on the field (see article on Pecos League commissioner charging field with chair) but off the field and how the leagues actually survive is very interesting to say the least.

In addition to covering some of the independent leagues, we hope to bring you some new and interesting ideas like the top independent managing prospects. With managers being picked up from independent leagues into affiliated ball, we thought we would look at a few of the manager prospects in the game right now. So stay tuned for that and other new ideas on independent ball.

In addition we plan to bring you more reviews on books, documentaries, movies, and other sites as well. We are apart of a huge baseball blogosphere and we want to help spread some of the great writing that is going on. For one, Dan Glickman over at the Hall of Very Good wrote about the best baseball links of 2014. There is a lot of great writing here from some of the top writers in the sport. I have read many of the articles throughout the year but some of the I missed so I will be going back through them in the next week and I recommend you do the same.

I dropped the ball in 2014 due to my schedule becoming so crazy but most of that is behind me now and I hope to continue bringing you updates from around the world in 2015.

I would also like to have your opinions and ideas on what you would like to see. I have tossed around the idea of a podcast with others joining me to discuss baseball from around the world. I’ve also tossed around the idea of starting a vlog and doing some video. Those are on hold right now until I can get back into the swing of regular updates. I am putting together a schedule of when I will update what leagues in order to bring some regularity to the site and hopefully more interaction with you the readers.

With all of that being said, Happy New Year! Here is hoping your favorite teams continue, or start, a winning tradition in 2015!

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Final 2014 IBAF World Baseball Rankings: Japan Takes No. 1 Spot

With the conclusion of the 21U Baseball World Cup and the Central American and Caribbean Games, the final world standings have been released. There were only a few movers in the top 10 including Japan taking the No. 1 spot from the USA after making it to the finals of the 21 U BWC. The Netherlands also over took the Dominican Republic for No. 5 on the list.

The biggest mover in the top 30 was the Czech Republic moving up seven spots to No. 20. Argentina fell the furthest falling six spots to No. 28. The top 12 teams will be allowed to compete in the inaugural Premier 12 tournament to be held in Chinese Taipei in November 2015.

Final 2014 IBAF World Baseball Rankings:

Rank Nation  Points
2013 Trending
1  Japan 785.18 2 Year End Men’s Baseball World Ranking finalized1
2  USA 766.02 1 Year End Men’s Baseball World Ranking finalized1
3  Cuba 662.98 3
4  Chinese Taipei 605.48 4
5  Netherlands 433.50 6 Year End Men’s Baseball World Ranking finalized1
6  Dominican Republic 379.18 5 Year End Men’s Baseball World Ranking finalized1
7  Canada 353.52 7  –
8  South Korea 340.90 8
9  Puerto Rico 291.50 9
10  Venezuela 269.00 10
11  Italy 196.18 11
12  Mexico 136.78 12
13  Panama 132.92 13  –
14  Australia 127.82 14
15  Brazil 116.61 15
16  Nicaragua 110.77 18 Year End Men’s Baseball World Ranking finalized2
17  Spain 105.52 17
18  Germany 78.90 19 Year End Men’s Baseball World Ranking finalized1
19  Colombia 69.00 16 Year End Men’s Baseball World Ranking finalized3
20  Czech Republic 68.93 27 Year End Men’s Baseball World Ranking finalized7
21  China 68.25 20 Year End Men’s Baseball World Ranking finalized1
22  Israel 55.47 26 Year End Men’s Baseball World Ranking finalized4
23  Philippines 52.40 23
24  Pakistan 51.00 21 Year End Men’s Baseball World Ranking finalized3
25  Great Britain 50.56 24 Year End Men’s Baseball World Ranking finalized1
26  New Zealand 50.00 28 Year End Men’s Baseball World Ranking finalized2
27  France 46.75 32 Year End Men’s Baseball World Ranking finalized5
28  Argentina 42.91 22 Year End Men’s Baseball World Ranking finalized6
29  South Africa 33.00 31 Year End Men’s Baseball World Ranking finalized2
30  Thailand 30.50 25 Year End Men’s Baseball World Ranking finalized5

Complete Rankings

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Japan: NPB Commissioner Ryozo Kato Resigns

Japanese baseball commissioner Ryozo Kato has announced his resignation. The announcement came at an owner’s meeting and stems from the revelation that the league is using a livelier ball this season.

With that livelier ball, Wladimir Balentien has broken one of the most sacred records in Japan, Sadaharu Oh’s single season home run record.

Kato, who is a former ambassador to the United States, is in his third term as commissioner of Nippon Professional Baseball. He will resign his post at the end of the regular season which ends October 6.

There has been no announcement on who will replace Kato.

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Possible Changes in the Posting Process for Japanese Players

David Lennon of Newsday.com has reported that changes are apparent in the Japanese player posting system. They are reporting that the changes could come as early as November.

The new process will be more player-friendly and could greatly benefit Rakuten Golden Eagles ace Masahiro Tanaka.

The current process features a bidding process where the highest bidder from MLB has the right to negotiate with the player.  The winner of the sealed bidding process has a specific window to negotiate and sign the player. However, that all could change very soon.

One proposal has the player being allowed to choose three teams among the top bidders with the player then allowed to negotiate with the team he would like to play for.

You can read more from the Newsday.com article here.

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Japan: Wladimir Balentien Breaks Home Run Record

There is a new home run king in Japan. Former Seattle Mariner and Cincinnati Red Wladimir Balentien, who now plays for Tokyo Yakult Swallows, has eclipsed the former single season home run record of 55.

The record, formally held by Sadaharu Oh, Tuffy Rhodes, and Alex Cabrera, now sits with the 29-year old native of Curacao.

In the first inning of the Swallows game on Sunday, Balentien broke the four-way tie with a his 56th home run. However, the new home run king decided that wasn’t enough. In his next at-bat, he hit No. 57.

Balentien received hugs from his teammates, a bouquet of flowers after touching home plate, and a standing ovation from fans in the stands. This is a far cry from the resistance that others felt when they were approaching the record as many in Japan did not want a foreigner to break the long standing record.

Oh, a legend in Japanese baseball, set the record in 1964.

In 1985, Randy Bass hit 54 with two games left in the season only to be pitched around by the Yomiuri Giants. He was intentionally walked four times in the final game. Ironically the Giants were managed by Oh.

Again in 2001, Rhodes tied the record and received similar treatment. He was pitched around by the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks who once again were managed by Oh. A year later the same thing happened to Cabrera when he tied the record.

Balentien has hit 31 home runs each of the previous two seasons for the Swallows. In 170 career MLB games, he hit 15 home runs for two different teams.

In addition to breaking the home run record in Japan, Balentien also set a record for home runs in Asia. Lee Seung-Yeop held the previous record with 56 home runs in 2003 while playing with the Samsung Lions in South Korea.

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Japan Releases 18U National Team Roster

16 of 20 players on roster played and famous Koshien High School Tournament

Japan has announced its roster for the 18U National Team that will compete in the 18U Baseball World Cup in Taichung. The tournament will take place from August 30 to September 8.

Sixteen of the twenty players on the roster competed in the 95th Japanese High School National Championship, better known as the Koshien, that just finished on August 22. The championship featured 49 regional winners from all over the country playing in a 14-day tournament which is the most famous high school baseball tournament in the world.

The team will begin practice on August 25 in Osada. It will play a couple exhibition games against college teams before leaving for Chinese Taipei.

2013 Japan 18U National Team:

Position, Name, High School (Prefecture)
RHP, Harumi Iida, Joso Gakuin (Ibaragi)
LHP, Yuki Matsui, Toko Gakuen (Kanagawa)
RHP, Taisuke Yamaoka, Setouchi (Hiroshima)
LHP, Kazuto Taguchi, Hiroshima Shinjo (Hiroshima)
RHP, Yuya Takahashi, Iwakuni Commercial (Yamaguchi)
RHP, Kona Takahashi, Maebashi Ikuei (Gunma)
RHP, Tomohiro Anraku, Saibi (Ehime)
Catcher, Yasuhito Uchida, Joso Gakuin (Ibaragi)
Catcher, Kenya Wakatsuki, Hanasaki Tokuharu (Saitama)
Catcher, Tomoya Mori, Osaka Toin (Osaka)
IF, Satoshi Sonobe, Seiko Gakuin (Fukushima)
IF, Yusei Itsuzaki, Meitoku Gijuku (Kochi)
IF, Nobuyuki Okumura, Nihon University Yamagata (Yamagata)
IF, Takahiro Kumagai, Sendai Ikuei (Sendai)
IF, Haruki Takemura, Urawa Gakuin (Saitama)
IF, Ryo Watanabe, Tokai University Kofu (Yamanashi)
OF, Ryuma Mori, 3rd Junior High of Nihon University (Tokyo)
OF, Yuto Yoshida, Hokusho (Hokkaido)
OF, Seiji Uebayashi, Sendai Ikuei (Sendai)
OF, Akihito Iwashige, Nobeoka Gakuen (Miyazaki)

Photo: National Champion Maebashi Ikuei and Runners Up Nobeoka Gakuen at Koshien on August 22, 2013 by The Mainichi

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Stadium Journey Ranks Japanese Baseball Stadiums

I love lists. I love to see people ranking things whether it’s movies, songs, or stadiums. And our friends over at StadiumJourney.com have released an interesting list Ranking the Stadiums of Japanese Baseball.

At the top of their list is Koshien Stadium the home of the Hanshin Tigers.

I have not visited any of the stadiums in Japan, but its very high on my list of baseball related things to do. I was still surprised to see that Koshien Stadium, which is the oldest stadium, at the top of the list.

But if  you read the full review, just click on each of the stadium names, you’ll see that the atmosphere and fans rank very high making the score of the stadium rise.

One thing I wasn’t surprised was that the Tokyo Dome ranked pretty low. Just from watching games on TV there, I’ve never thought much of it. It never really struck me as a must see place. Pretty much the only reason to go there, is to see the historic Yomiuri Giants.

I was also pleased to see that most of the domes ranked low. I’m not a huge fan of domed stadiums. I understand in some places its a must to have a dome, or at the very least a retractable roof. But domes are not as fun to watch games in. I’ve been to a few and I’d much rather see a game outside.

So head on over and check out the list. If you’ve been to a stadium or two, be sure to let us know if you agree with the rankings or not.

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Riseisha Rectovenus Won 9th Women’s Baseball Championship in Matsuyama City

By Baseball Federation of Japan

Riseisha Rectovenus of Osaka managed by Ms. Megumi Kitta (Photo), a member of Athletes Commission of IBAF, and in its second year since the start of the club, won close contest against Fukuchiyama Seibi High School team (Kyoto) by 2-1.

The record 36 teams throughout Japan, including 7 newcomers, played round robin in 12 groups of 3 teams each since August 3, and the 12 winners from each group competed in knockout competition.

Elsewhere, Yonan Gakudou Club (Tochigi) defeted Hasami Konosu Boys Baseball Club (Nagasaki) by 4-2 in the 12U Japanese Rubber Baseball National Championship at Jingu Stadium on August 7.  Pitcher Honma and Catcher Ikui of the winner are girls and it was the first time for the Championship to see girls’ battery play, let alone win a game.  They lost the second game on August 7.

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Pakistan 16U Youth Team Tours Japan

Press Release Baseball Federation of Japan

Combination of activities at grass roots level to promote baseball in West Asia brought a 16U baseball team from Pakistan to Japan for a friendly match with Junior High School players in Higashi Osaka on June 30.

Pakistan scored an only but valuable run in the 7th inning to the delight of all the 200 fans and supporters even though the game ended 18-1.

During their stay in Osaka, the Pakistani youth participated in cultural exchange programs and particularly enjoyed visiting Kyocera Dome to watch a professional ball game between Orix Buffaloes and Rakuten Eagles.

Among those who were instrumental in materializing the scheme were: Syed Khawar Shah, Executive Director West Asia Baseball Federation of Asia and Secretary General Pakistan Federation Baseball, Sujeewa Wijayanayake of Sri Lanka Baseball, and Yohei Kobayashi, President of Baseball in Nepal “Circle Laligurans”

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Baseball Hall of Fame Japan Honors Peter O’Malley, Former Dodgers Owner

Press Release Baseball Federation of Japan

To commemorate 110th birth anniversary of late Walter O’Malley (1903-1979), former Dodgers owner, the Baseball Hall of Fame opened a special exhibition “Baseball in Japan and the O’Malley family” on June 29 and Walter’s son, Peter O’Malley (75), joined ribbon cutting with Commissioner Ryozo Kato and Renzo Ishii (81), former manager of Waseda University baseball club.

Commissioner Kato presented the guest of honor with letters of commendation for the lasting friendship between Japanese baseball community and his family.  The exhibition displays valuable memorabilia borrowed from O’Malley family and will last till July 15.

In accepting the recognition, Peter O’Malley responded by saying that this was his 85th visit to Japan beginning with the first one in the fall of 1956 with Dodgers and will aim for a century!  He is a great supporter to bring baseball and softball back to the Olympic Games and reiterated his pledge to help WBSF’s reinstatement campaign for the next 2 months.

Photo by courtesy of The Baseball Hall of Fame Japan.

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All-Japan University Baseball Federation Announces National Collegiate Roster

by All-Japan University Baseball Federation

All-Japan University Baseball Federation (JUBF) announced on June 23 the names of the 24 players selected to represent Japan for the 39th Japan/U.S. Collegiate Championship to be held in five cities in Japan from July 6 to 11.

Manager Tatsuya Yoshinami (Meiji University) said that all the eight pitchers selected have a variety of pitches to take on powerful batters of the U.S. and strong fielding and fast running of the host team should make the five duels most exciting.

The name, position, uniform number, university and throw/bat of the roster are as follows:

Coaching Staff:

Leader IWAI Yoshiki Kokusai Budo
Manager 30 YOSHINAMI Tatsuya Meiji
Coaches 50 YOKOI?Hitoki Tokai
40 SUZUKI Hideyuki Kansai Kokusai
55 TORIYAMA?Yasutaka Kokugakuin
Trainer TIKUJO Hifumi -
Captain 10 UMENO Ryutaro Fukuoka
Travel Manager HONDA Takashi Jobu


11 ROKUNO?Masaji Tokai L/L
14 OSERA?Daichi Kyushu Kyoritsu R/R
18 SUGIURA Toshihiro Kokugakuin R/R
19 SEKIYA Ryota Meiji R/R
15 YAMASAKI Yasuaki Asia R/R
17 YAMASAKI Sachiya Meiji L/L
21 ISHIDA Kenta Hosei L/L
16 TANAKA Toyoki Nihon Bunri R/R
10 UMENO Ryutarou Fukuoka R/R
22 MINEI Hiroki Asia R/R
27 ISHIKAWA Ryohei Kokugakuin R/R
12 SAKAMOTO Seishiro Meiji R/R
1 MIKI Ryo Jobu R/R
3 KAWAI Kanji Hosei R/L
6 NISHIURA Naomichi Hosei R/R
25 OKA Hiromi Meiji R/R
2 NAKAMURA Shogo Waseda R/R
7 MINESHITA Tomohiro Kinki R/L
4 OHSHIRO Koji Rikkio R/R
5 FUJIOKA Yudai Asia R/L
9 OOKIDO Shohri Hosei R/L
24 EGOSHI Taiga Komazawa R/R
26 YOSHIDA Masataka Aoyama Gakuin R/L

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USA and Japan Collegiate Teams to Meet for 39th Time

For the 39th time the USA and Japan will have a series between the two countries collegiate national teams. It will be held July 6-12 at four different venues around Japan.

The series is officially sanctioned by the IBAF with the two teams ranked #2 (USA) and #3 (Japan) in the world.


  • Game 1: July 6th(Sat) 14:00 Matsuyama Bocchan Stadium/Ehime Pref.
  • Game 2: July 7th(Sun) 14:00 Matsuyama Bocchan Stadium/Ehime Pref.
  • Game 3: July 8th(Mon) 18:00 Mazda Zoom-Zoom Stadium/ Hiroshima Pref.
  • Game 4: July 10th(Wed) 18:00 Utsunomiya Kiyohara Stadium/Tochigi Pref.
  • Game 5: July 11th(Thu) 18:00 Meiji Jingu Stadium/Tokyo

The two teams played in 2011 with the USA winning the series 3-1 with one tie. Those games were held in the USA. The first time the two played was in 1972 and over the years the USA has won 22 of the meetings with Japan winning 16.

Team USA will come back to the States to play a five game series with Cuba.

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Japan: NPB to Open 2014 Season in USA

Patrick Newman of NPBTracker.com pointed out that the NPB will open its 2014 season in the USA with one game in both Los Angeles and Anaheim.

This is an interesting development. It looks like the two teams will be the Hanshin Tigers and the Yomiuri Giants based on a translation of the Japanese article Newman linked to.

This would be the first time in Japanese baseball history that the league opened the season in the USA. Major League Baseball has opened its season in Japan several times as well as Mexico and Puerto Rico.

As we get more information, we will pass it along.


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World Baseball Classic semi-finals generate massive television viewership in Japan

Loss to Puerto Rico on Sunday Watched by 51% of Potential Viewers in Japan

The World Baseball Classic continues to generate massive television ratings in the competing countries.  In Japan, Sunday’s loss to Puerto Rico earned a 51 share (percentage of available viewers tuned to the game), the largest share for any of Japan’s World Baseball Classic games this year.

That game was also the most-watched sporting event in the past year in Puerto Rico, with the final moments of the game peaking at an astonishing 74 share.  Today, Puerto Rico takes on the undefeated Dominican Republic team in the World Baseball Classic Championship game, which will be available to 440 million households worldwide, reaching more than 200 countries and territories in 15 different languages. In the U.S., the game will be televised on MLB Network in English and ESPN Deportes in Spanish.  In Puerto Rico, the game will also be broadcast by Telemundo WKAQ, while in the Dominican Republic the game will be televised by CDN.

Press Release World Baseball Classic, Inc.

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WBC: Puerto Rico Ousts Two-Time Defending Champ Japan

Ríos, Puerto Rico Shock Defending Champs Japan

By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)

Edwin Rodriguez, manager of the underdog Puerto Rico team, put together a game plan against the two-time defending World Baseball Classic champions Japan and stuck to it, and Alex Rios hit a two-run homer to give Puerto Rico a 3-1 win in the WBC semifinals. The loss by Japan eliminated them from the competition and ensured that there will be a new world champion.

Kenta Maeda, Japan’s star pitcher, did not allow a run in either of his starts in the first or second rounds, but struggled with the feel of his pitches early in the game. Maeda shook the rosin bag after almost every pitch, polishing the ball in hopes of improving his release.

Maeda clearly felt uncomfortable in a rocky first inning, walking Irving Falu and Carlos Beltran with one out to put a runner in scoring position for the heart of the order. He struck out Molina on three pitches, the last a beautiful slider, but could not get Mike Aviles for the third out.

Aviles stroked a base hit to centre field, and Falú turned on the wheels and raced home to give Puerto Rico a 1-0 lead. The RBI-single tied Aviles for second among run producers, one behind David Wright.

That was all in the inning for Puerto Rico, as Maeda settled down with a grounder from Álex Ríos, and journeyman right-hander Mario Santiago took the hill for Rodríguez. Puerto Rico’s skipper had drawn up a strategy that Santiago and five relievers executed perfectly: pitch quickly and avoid letting the Japanese hitters find their rhythm.

Santiago did just that in the first, needing only about 12 seconds in between pitches to deliver the next toss and, as the game wore on, it was clear that the plan was working. As is common in Japan, the Samurai lineup has complicated batting stances which involve multiple moving parts, and Santiago mowed down the first 10 batters he faced.

After the first, Maeda matched Santiago’s zeroes, using a double play to end the second and start the third inning. Maeda was not nearly as efficient as his opponent, though, exiting after the fifth inning having thrown 80 pitches.

Santiago had to leave in the fifth after injuring himself in the previous frame fielding a groundball. José de la Torre entered with Hayato Sakamoto on second and one out, and gave Japan its first rally by walking Sho Nakata. The Boston Red Sox’ prospect recovered, showing off his impressive arsenal by striking out the next two batters swinging.

Atsushi Nohmi got three outs in the sixth and Japan once more sent a runner into scoring position in the bottom half of the inning. With two out, Seiichi Uchikawa tripled to left centre when Angel Pagan misjudged his base hit and let it go by him to the wall.

Southpaw Xavier Cedeno came in to face Japan’s cleanup hitter, Shinnosuke Abe, and struck out the lefty on four pitches. Cedeño used the same approach as Santiago had, firing in pitches before Abe was comfortable in the box.

Puerto Rico took advantage of Japan’s inability to push runners over in the previous two frames in the seventh. Aviles stroked his second hit of the night to right and Ríos took Nohmi’s 1-1 offering deep into the night, watching in disbelief as the longball landed about a dozen rows in the left centre field bleachers.

The upstarts continued to threaten against reliever Tadashi Settsu. With two out, Jesus Feliciano walked and Pagán laced a safety to right centre to put runners on the corners. Toshiya Sugiuchi got Japan out of the jam, but the damage had been done and Puerto Rico had a 3-0 lead.

Cedeño continued to deal in the seventh, ending the frame with his second K, and Puerto Rico was six outs away from the improbable victory.

The Puerto Rican offence, which had struggled for most of the Classic, almost added another insurance run in the eighth, loading the bases with one out on an error, a nine-pitch walk to Aviles, and a single to Ríos, but Tetsuya Yamaguchi got the final two outs to keep Japan’s deficit at three.

Takashi Toritani made use of AT&T Park’s spacious alleys to rip a triple to right centre. Hirokazu Ibata, the MVP of second round play in Tokyo, blooped a single to right to plate Toritani, and Japan finally showed some life. Uchikawa rapped a one-base hit to right with one out to put runners on first and second, and Rodríguez dipped into his pen for J.C. Romero.

Romero, who closed out Puerto Rico’s victory over the United States only two days’ earlier, entered to face Abe. Japan ran into trouble before the at bat was complete, though, as Ibata missed a double steal sign and only Uchikawa took off for second.

Yadier Molina, Puerto Rico’s catcher, ran out almost all the way to second base to tag Uchikawa, and the Samurai now only had one out to plate the runner. Romero would deny Abe the chance to play hero with a ground ball to the far right side for which Rodríguez had Falú positioned perfectly. The second baseman dove into the hole behind first base, snared the ball, and threw with his back to the ground to nail Abe.

Despite two Ks from Yamaguchi in the ninth, Japan could not narrow the gap against Romero and Fernando Cabrera in the latter half of the frame. Puerto Rico mobbed the field to celebrate its victory in its first-ever appearance in the World Baseball Classic semifinals.

Santiago, who pitched last year in Korea, earned the victory, giving up only two hits in 4 1/3 shutout innings, striking out two and failing to issue a base on balls. De la Torre and Cedeño both hurled 1 1/3 scoreless frames, while the run was charged to Randy Fontañez. Romero got three outs and Cabrera the final two, earning his third save of the WBC in the process.

Maeda dropped to 2-1 in the Classic despite surrendering one run on four hits and two free passes in five frames. He struck out three to augment his tournament-leading total to 18, six more than the next closest. Five other pitchers toed the rubber for the losing side.

Ibata and Uchikawa both had two hits for the Samurai, who mustered just six hits and two walks off Puerto Rican pitching. The team struck out eight times, left seven on base, and were 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position. Abe, the most highly regarded hitter in the lineup, was 0-for-4 and left three runners stranded.

Puerto Rico banged out nine hits and earned four free passes in its victory. Aviles reached base three times and had two safeties, joining Ríos and Pagán as the leader in that category. The team struck out only six times against Japan’s vaunted pitching staff.

Japan will have to wait until 2017 to avenge their loss in the semifinals and finishes 5-2 in the 2013 WBC. They are 17-7 in the three editions of the Classic, the most wins by any team. Puerto Rico now has 13 victories in the tournament, fourth most all-time.

Rodríguez and his men will await the results of the other semifinal matchup between the Netherlands and the Dominican Republic and have a day off to set his pitching staff. Puerto Rico will play in its first championship game, with first pitch scheduled for 1 a.m. GMT on Mar. 20.

We will have news and analysis of the final two games of the 2013 World Baseball Classic, so check back for all your coverage.

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WBC: Puerto Rico vs Japan Pitching Match Up

The 2013 World Baseball Classic semifinals are here, and it all kicks off with Game 1 between the two-time defending champion Japan against Puerto Rico. So before the game gets going, let’s take a look at the starting pitchers.

Puerto Rico

Mario Santiago gets the start for Puerto Rico today. Santiago spent 2012 pitching for the SK Wyverns in South Korea where he pitched in 18 games posting a 6-3 record and a 3.40 ERA.

Prior to 2012, Santiago bounced around the minor leagues getting as high as Triple-A with the Kansas City Royals organization in 2011. He is not a strikeout pitcher averaging just 5.8 strikeouts per nine innings over his seven minor league seasons. In 2012, he struck out 49 in 95.1 innings.

In the WBC so far Santiago has made one start. He has pitched 4.1 innings giving up three runs on five hits. He took the loss against Team USA in both teams first game of Round 2.


Getting the start for Japan is easily their best pitcher so far in the WBC, Kenta Maeda. Maeda has started two games winning both. He has pitched 10 innings in those two starts striking out 15 and giving up just two hits.

Maeda had a great year in 2012 for the Hiroshima Carp. He posted a 14-7 record with a 1.53 ERA tossing over 206 innings. He has won 10 or more games the past three seasons in the Nippon Professional Baseball League in Japan.

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World Baseball Classic Finals Preview: Japan

We took a look at one semifinalists, Puerto Rico, earlier. Now let’s take a look at who they will play on Sunday night in San Francisco, Japan.


WBC History

Japan has won the first two Classics. In 2006, they beat Cuba to take home the first title. They followed that up in 2009 with an extra-inning win over rival South Korea. So far in WBC action, Japan has posted an impressive 17-6 record.

They made it to San Francisco by winning Pool 1 in Tokyo. In Round 1, they finished 2-1 with the only loss coming to top-ranked Cuba. In Round 2, Japan showed its pedigree by defeating a hot Chinese Taipei team and then crushing the Dutch twice.

The Hitters

Japan is led by current NPB Central League MVP Shinnosuke Abe. Despite not starting in the first game, Abe has shown why he is the star everyone talks about. He leads the team in home runs with two and has posted a line of .316/.350/.684.

In addition to Abe, Hirokazu Ibata has been great at the plate posting a .571/.684/.643 line to lead the team in average and on-base percentage. Third baseman Nobuhiro Matsuda has been one of the best hitters in what is a deep lineup with both power and speed.

Of the remaining teams, Japan leads in batting average, home runs, runs scored, and stolen bases. Plus through six games, the defense has only made one error.

The Pitchers

Japan features a nice pitching staff to compliment the good hitters. Getting the start in the semifinal game is perhaps their best pitcher at the moment, Kenta Maeda. The right-hander won 14 games for Hiroshima in 2012 and has been lights out in the WBC. Through two starts Maeda has pitched 10 scoreless innings giving up only two hits and striking out 15.

Also featured on the staff is the Rakuten Eagles Masahiro Tanaka who has struck out 12 in seven innings of work. Tanaka, who won 10 games in 2012, won the Sawamura Award (Cy Young equivalent) in 2011.

For the most part, the bullpen has been impressive with only a few hiccups here and there.

The Outlook

Japan once again looks really strong. They have shown power, speed, and pitching. They like to play small ball so look for them to use the bunt with great effectiveness. Being the two-time defending champions, they are the team to beat. It won’t be an easy task for any team.

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WBC: Shinnosuke Abe Powers Japan Past Netherlands

Abe’s Two-Homer Inning Propels Japan in Win

By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)

Shinnosuke Abe set a World Baseball Classic that will likely never be broken, stroking two home runs against the Netherlands in an eight-run second inning. Japan made the early lead hold in a 10-6 victory that gave the Samurai a No. 1 seed in the semifinals. The Netherlands will join them in San Francisco and take on the top team from Pool Two in Miami.

It was the Netherlands who went on top first. Andrelton Simmons led off the game by crushing the second pitch he saw into the left centre field seats. It was his second longball in two days. Japanese starter Kenji Otonari immediately settled down, striking out the side.

David Bergman, a veteran of the Honkbal Hoofdklasse in Japan, looked strong in a 1-2-3 first inning. Otonari continued where he left off in the second, getting two more strikeouts.

Samurai Japan exploded in the second against Bergman. Abe led off with a solo shot to right field to tie the game, and Bergman loaded the bases on a walk, a hit batter, and a bunt single that Katsuya Kakunaka beat out. Nobuhiro Matsuda drove home one with a safety, but Hisayoshi Chono upstaged him with a bases-clearing double into the left field corner.

With the score at 5-1, Bergman looked to right the ship, getting the second out but walking Hirokazu Ibata. Dutch manager Hensley Meulens yanked his starter and inserted Jonatan Isenia to stop the bleeding.

With two on, Abe stepped to the plate and blasted Isenia’s pitch to almost the exact same location as his first longball, collecting three RBI and giving Japan an 8-1 lead. That was all in the inning, but the damage was done.

Both sides were quiet from the third through the sixth innings. Isenia was solid in two innings of relief and Mark Pawelek overcame a wild warmup to through 1 1/3 scoreless innings with two strikeouts.

Koji Yamamoto, Japan’s manager, received superb relief work during the middle frames. Otonari exited after three innings, striking out six, walking one, and allowing only the dinger to Simmons. Hirokazu Sawamura, Mashiro Tanaka, and Takeru Imamura followed with shutout frames. Tanaka in particular was impressive, whiffing two with unhittable stuff.

The Orange finally narrowed the gap in the seventh against Masahiko Morifuku. Curt Smith drew a walk to start the inning, Kalian Sams doubled, and Xander Bogaerts plated Smith on a slow bouncer to second that the speedy infielder beat out for a hit. Randolph Oduber hit a sacrifice fly to score Sams with the Netherlands’ third run.

Kevin Heijstek threw his second straight scoreless inning in the bottom of the frame, and the Netherlands rallied in the eighth. Hainley Statia, started for the injured Wladimir Balentien, reached on an infield hit to the hole on the left side and went to second on a walk to Jonathan Schoop. Two straight grounders almost ended the threat, though the second by Smith scored Statia.

Sams stepped up to the plate and drilled a single to centre to knock out Morifuku and score Schoop. Bogaerts greeted Tetsuya Yamaguchi with a line drive into the left field corner. Bogaerts legged out two bases and the Orange had two runners in scoring position.

Quintin de Cuba, a defensive replacement in the fifth, stroked his first hit of the Classic to plate Sams, and the Netherlands were only down by two with runners once more on the corners. Oduber, who had a key double in the Dutch victory over Cuba the night before, struck out to end the threat with the Netherlands now trailing only 8-6.

With the Dutch suddenly rallying, Japanese refocused in the bottom of the eighth. Sho Nakata led off with a single and was erased on a poor sacrifice bunt attempt by Katsuya Kakunaka. Kakunaka created his own threat, though, stealing second and advancing to third on a passed ball.

Nobuhiro Matsuda worked a free pass and went to second on defensive indifference, and Chono collected two more RBIs with a safety to left. Chono was caught stealing to end the frame, but Japan had rebuilt their lead to four.

The Orange attempted a comeback against Kazuhisa Makita in the ninth, but it fell short. Statia hustled for another infield hit with one out and moved up on a Schoop single. Andruw Jones stepped up to the plate still looking for his first hit of the day after eight in the previous six games, but grounded to second to force Schoop at the keystone sack. The Netherlands had one final chance with runners on the corners, but Curt Smith could not catch up to a Makita fastball and struck out.

Otonari earned his first win of the tournament and seven other hurlers finished off the game. Bergman took the loss, surrendering seven runs on four hits and two walks in 1 2/3. The Dutch bullpen threw 7 1/3 innings, scattering six baserunners and allowing only one earned run.

Japan’s offence, which came alive in the second round, banged out nine hits, one fewer than the Netherlands, but made the most of them. The Samurai left only three runners on base and were 5-for-10 with runners in scoring position.

Abe, Chono, and Matsuda all had two hits, with Chono pacing the team in RBI with five. Abe hit the first two home runs of his Classic career, but lost out on Pool 1 MVP honours to Ibata, who hit .556 and was a consistent performer when Japan’s bats were scuffling.

Statia, Sams, and Bogaerts all had two hits for the Netherlands. Sams was the only player to score twice and his double was the third for him in the WBC. The Orange left eight runners on base and struck out 13 times.

Japan will take on the Pool 2 runner-up from Miami on Mar. 18 at 1 a.m. GMT in San Francisco. The Netherlands will face the winner 24 hours later, with the victors in both games playing for the world championship a day later.

Stay tuned for coverage of the second round pool in Miami and the World Baseball Classic finals in AT&T Park.

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WBC: Japan Routs Netherlands; Ties Home Run Record

Japan’s Six Homers, Maeda Demolish Dutch, 16-4

By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)

Japan tied a World Baseball Classic record with six home runs, breaking out of a tournament long slump and taking it out on an overwhelmed Netherlands team. The 16-4 victory ended in the seventh on the mercy rule, and the Samurai qualified for the semifinals in a sold out Tokyo Dome.

After hitting only .256 with a .271 slugging percentage in its first four games, Team Nippon unloaded against the Netherlands, sending no fewer than five batters to the plate in any inning. Japan scored in every inning, falling two short of tying their own WBC mark for runs in a game. Its total was the highest in the 2013 tournament, while the 17 hits tied Italy’s mark for highest in 2013. Japan did set a Classic record for total bases (38) and extra-base hits (10). Only Cuba can claim to have knocked six four-baggers in a game.

Takashi Toritani was the first Japanese player to send one yard, leading off the game with a four-bagger to right centre. The diminutive infielder is not known for his power, so his homer might have been considered to be a harbinger of the display to come.

Japan knocked veteran Orange starter Rob Cordemans out of the game in the second. Nobuhiro Matsuda hit a two-run homer and was followed by a double from the bat of Toritani. After a walk to Hirokazu Ibata, Seiichi Uchikawa sent them all home with a longball just to the left of dead centre. With the score 5-0 and still only one out, Cordemans hit the showers.

Kenta Maeda started for Japan and pitched remarkably. While Japan piled on run after run, Maeda set down the first five batters of the game before allowing the only hit against him in the second. Working low in the zone, he mixed breaking pitches with a strong fastball that was consistently in the low-90s/high 140s.

Atsunori Inaba became the oldest player to homer in the World Baseball Classic in the third, hitting a solo shot to make it 7-0. Though Maeda was pitching as if he had a one-run lead, Japan put the game utterly out-of-reach in the following frame. Yoshio Itoi, who had Japan’s only extra-base hits entering the game, blasted a dinger that travelled well over 400 feet to right centre.

Despite a 10-0 lead, Japan kept piling on, scoring without hitting a home run in an inning for the first time in the fifth. Ibata had a double and scored on a Shinnosuke Abe two-bagger.

After the Curt Smith safety in the second, Maeda sent down the next 10 Orange hitters and left after five complete innings and only 66 pitches. The right-hander struck out nine, one shy of Ubaldo Jiménez’s 2009 high-water mark.

Japan made it 12-0 in the sixth on a single by Sho Nakata and a two-bagger by Matsuda. Matsuda joined Toritani as Samurai to collect more than one extra-base hit in the game.

With Maeda out of the game, the Netherlands seized the opportunity to put a few runs on the board against Tetsuya Utsumi. Kalian Sams walked to start the frame and moved to second on a single by Andrelton Simmons. Roger Bernadina was plunked to load the bases, bringing up Wladimir Balentien, who hit over .300 against Utsumi in Japan in 2012.

The right fielder for the Orange delivered a bases-clearing blow to dead centre, legging out a double to make it 12-4. Andruw Jones drove home Balentien with a single, but got caught trying to stretch and was thrown out. The rally temporarily prevented the mercy rule from being effected, as it states that a team must be ahead by 10 or more after seven innings.

Japan but a final seal on the rout in the seventh, getting four runs of their own with only one swing. After singles by Ibata and Abe and a hit batter of Itoi, Hayato Sakamoto drove a pitch to deep left centre for a prodigious grand slam.

Maeda earned his second win and has yet to allow a run in 10 innings, striking out 15. Utsumi gave up all of the Orange’s runs in two-thirds of a frame, and Tetsuya Yamaguchi and Hideaki Wakui finished off the game.

Cordemans took the loss after giving up six runs on three homers, a double, and a single in 1 1/3. Tom Stuifbergen pitched two innings, striking out three, but gave up three earned runs on five hits. Kevin Heijstek did well in 2 2/3 frames, giving up one earned run on four hits, but avoiding the longball while striking out two. Berry Van Driel and Jonny Balentina finished off the game for the losers.

The Dutch will have to face Cuba for the right to go to the semifinals. They will square off again on Mar. 11 at 11 a.m. GMT. Japan will face the winner to determine seeding for the third round of play. Stay tuned for coverage of that important matchup and all other World Baseball Classic games.

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WBC: Japan Defeats Chinese Taipei in 10 Inning Thriller

Persistent Japan Rallies By Chinese Taipei in 10, 4-3

By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)

Third-ranked Japan avoided an embarrassing upset with three late rallies, beaten a heartbroken Chinese Taipei side in 10 innings, 4-3. Chinese Taipei led the ballgame until the eighth innings and did not trail until the final frame, but could not piece together enough offence in the World Baseball Classic thriller.

Both teams threatened in the first two frames, but Chinese Taipei claimed the early advantage with a run in the third inning. Yen-Wen Kuo jumpstarted the offence with a double to centre off Atsushi Nomi and was sacrificed to third.

Nomi then walked a batter and hit another to load the bases, and surrendered a free pass to Szu-Chih Chou to drive in Kuo. Nomi’s night was finished after 2 2/3. He gave up three hits and a pair of walks, striking out two.

Meanwhile, Chien-Ming Wang looked his vintage self against third-ranked Japan. Using a devastating sinker and some inspired defence, he worked around hits through six scoreless frames. Only one hit went for extra bases, a double into the corner in right by Yoshio Itoi in the fourth.

Chinese Taipei put another run on the board in the fifth. Che-Hsuan Lin ripped a double down the right field line and Cheng-Ming Peng singled him home. With Japan scuffling, tt appeared the two-run advantage would be enough for Wang and the Chinese Taipei bullpen.

Masahiro Tanaka was the third pitcher out of the ‘pen for manager Koji Yamamoto. He looked the staff ace he was expected to be in the sixth and seventh frames, striking out four. He set all six batters down in those two innings, mixing an unhittable split-finger and mid-90s/low-150s fastball.

The Samurai would stun a coasting Chinese Taipei in the eighth with a tenacious rally. Hirokazu Ibata started the frame with one of his three hits and moved to third on a Seiichi Uchikawa bouncer into the right field gap. Shinnosuke Abe, Japan’s cleanup hitter, got his first hit of the Classic in a big way, driving in Ibata with a single.

Uchikawa was out on a poorly executed bunt by Itoi, but Hayato Sakamoto broke out of his 2-for-15 slump with a run-scoring single to tie the contest. Chinese Taipei got out of the inning, but were clearly stunned at the turn of events.

The shock wore off quickly for Peng and Chih-Sheng Lin. Peng laced a safety to right to lead off, and Lind drove him to third with a two-bagger against the suddenly floundering Tanaka. Chou drove in Peng to put Chinese Taipei up again, 3-2, and the squad looked to have regained their momentum as Tanaka exited.

A grounder by Chih-Kang Kao turned into a two-base fielder’s choice as Lin got hung up going home, but avoided the tag long enough to keep runners at second and third. With only one out, reliever Tetsuya Yamaguchi buckled down and induced a popout before giving way to Kazuhisa Makita, who would end the rally.

Chinese Taipei once again held the lead and had their closer, Hung-Wen Chen on the hill. Chen got the first out, but walked Takashi Toritani, who swiped second base. Ibata stepped up with two outs and delievered another hit, scoring Toritani from second. That was all for Japan, but Chinese Taipei once more needed a rally.

A single by Yi-Chuan Lin in the bottom of the ninth was a promising start, but Makita made an impressive dive in front of the mound to snare a blooped bunt, and Che-Hsuan Lin was forced to sacrifice with one out instead of none. Peng walked to put runners on the corners, but Makita struck out cleanup hitter Chih-Sheng Lin to send the game to extra innings.

Japan once more had its rally hats working. Ryoji Aikawa led off with a single and advanced to second on a walk. A sacrifice by Sakamoto put two runners in scoring position and Sho Nakata, who was 0-for-4, crushed a ball to the warning track in left. The ball was caught on the warning track, but the go-ahead run scored to give the home team, batting first against pool winners Chinese Taipei, the lead for the first time.

Toshiya Sugiuchi entered for the bottom of the tenth, and gave up back-to-back hits with one out, but induced a twin killing to deliver an improbable victory for the Samurai.

Japan scored their four runs on 13 hits, only Itoi’s going for extra bases. Ibata had three hits to lead the squad, while Uchikawa and Sakamoto each had a brace. Japan left 10 runners on base, but hit a respectable .286 with runners in scoring position and struck out only twice.

Chinese Taipei had 11 knocks shared among nine batters. Peng and Chien-Ming Chang were the only hitters with a pair of safeties. A big difference in the game was the 11 strikeouts rung up on Chinese Taipei hitters, who hit .200 with baserunners on second or third.

Makita earned the win thanks to his own sacrificial defending, staying in the game despite landing awkwardly. He was one of seven pitchers to toe the rubber, with Sugiuchi earning the save.

Chen took the loss by allowing two runs in 1 1/3, walking two and giving up two hits. Wang pitched well enough for the victory, but the bullpen gave up four runs in four innings in relief and registered only one strikeout.

The victory will give Japan a day of rest before taking on the seventh-ranked Netherlands, who upset top-rated Cuba earlier in the day. First pitch is at 11 a.m. GMT on Mar. 10. No. 5 Chinese Taipei will have to regroup in only a few hours before taking on the top-rated team in the world, with the loser going home. The showdown commences at 10 a.m. GMT on Mar. 9.

Stay tuned for WBC results, recaps, and analysis.

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WBC: Japan vs Chinese Taipei Pitching Match Up

Japan enters Round 2 of the 2013 World Baseball Classic seeking its third straight title. They advanced as the runner-up in Pool A after losing to Cuba 6-3. Chinese Taipei enters the next round off a loss to Korea. However, even with the loss they enter as the winner of Pool B. Chinese Taipei didn’t make it out of the first round in a very disappointing 2009. They both send very successful pitching into the game on Friday night in Tokyo.


Japan will start left-handed pitcher Atsushi Nohmi who was an All-Star in 2012 with the Hanshin Tigers. In 2012, he went 10-10 with a career-low 2.42 ERA, which ranked seventh in the Central League. He tied for the league lead in strikeouts as well with 172 in 182.0 innings.

Nohmi threw one inning in Round 1 against Brazil. He didn’t allow a hit and struck out one.

Chinese Taipei

Chinese Taipei will start their Game 1 starter and winner Chien-Ming Wang. The former MLB pitcher, who pitched for the Washington Nationals in 2012, tossed six scoreless innings allowing just four hits beating Australia 4-1.

In 2012, Wang went 4-6 in 15 games for Washington posting a 4.26 ERA. The former 19-game winner is a free agent this off season and looking to impress scouts enough to earn a contract for the 2013 season.

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WBC: Cuba Defeats Japan; Wins Pool A

Well-Rounded Cuba Holds Off Japan, 6-3

By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)

Fully hitting its offensive stride, Cuba used a powerful hitting attack to defeat Japan 6-3 in the Fukuoka Dome. Both sides had already qualified for the second round of the World Baseball Classic, but Cuba takes the No. 1 seed to Tokyo, befitting of its top ranking in the International Baseball Federation charts.

Both teams received good starting pitching and the crowd in the Dome spent all but a few pitches cheering loudlyin unison for Japan and banging ‘Thunder Sticks’ together to create a riotous and deafening atmosphere. Despite playing on home turf, third-rated Japan batted first because of tournament rules and almost took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first frame.

With two outs, HirokazuIbata reached on a bouncer up-the-middle. The MVP of the Japan’s Central League, Shinnosuke Abe, stepped to the plate against Wilbur Pérez and blasted a 1-1 pitch to deep right centre. Cuba’s centerfielder, Guillermo Heredia, raced into the alley and caught the ball at the fence.

Kenji Otonari was perfect through the first two frames, and Japan threatened again in the second, putting two runners on base with one out, but could not produce a run.

After a third inning in which he put a runner in scoring position and gave up another warning track out to Abe, Cuban manager Víctor Mesa pulled Pérez to protect the perilous 1-0 lead. The left-hander gave up three hits and a walk, sending three down swinging.

YasmanyTomás broke Otonari’s six batter hitless streak in a dramatic way. Leading off the first, Tomás took a 1-1 pitch and crushed it about 20 rows into the left centre field bleachers. The blow was the longest of the tournament, beating even teammate José Dariel Abreu’s prodigious home run a day before. The blast travelled around 440 feet by unofficial estimation.

Otonari would escape the inning without allowing another run, but his night was over after three frames. He struck out two and walked none, giving up one other hit.

Japan continued to press for a run against reliever Yander Guevara. With two outs, Sho Nakata hit a grounder to BárbaroArruebarruena, who had otherwise showed impressive defensive chops. The Cuban shortstop booted the ball, giving the Samurai a chance in the fourth. AtsunoriIbata, at 40 one of the oldest players in the WBC, stroked a single between first and second, but Guevara struck out Nobuhiro Matsuda to end the inning. Matsuda had been three for his last eight.

Cuba added a run against reliever Masahiro Tanaka. Tanaka, normally the ace of Japan’s staff, had struggled against Brazil in Game One. Koji Yamamoto, Japan’s manager, inserted the right-hander for a tune-up before the second round.

Tanakastruggled against Brazil using the more slippery American baseball, which is different than the ball used in Japan. He looked no more comfortable to start the fourth. José Fernández greeted him with a single and scored on a booming double by FrederichCepeda. After catching Abreu looking, Alfredo Despaigne hit a single to put two runners on base.

Tanaka suddenly found his groove, striking out Tomás and Eriel Sánchez to end the frame. Cuba had the 2-0 lead, but Japan was far from out of it, having put six runners on base during the first four innings.

Guevara allowed a walk, but Japan once again failed to capitalise and Tanaka took the hill for the bottom of the fifth. The righty continued where he left off in the fourth, mixing a fastball that was hitting the mid-90s/high-140s with a splitter and a nasty breaking pitch to strike out the side.

Japan could not capitalise on Tanaka’s performance in the sixth despite having runners on first and third with one out. Reliever Norberto González entered with two outs and got Inaba on a double play, erasing Nakata, who reached in all four plate appearances.

After HirokazuSawamura relieved to start the frame, Cuba took back the momentum and increased their lead. A red-hot Fernández ripped a double to deep right centre field and Abreu drove in Cuba’s third run two batters later. The slugger stole second base but Sawamura marooned him on second.

González continued to induce ground balls in the seventh, retiring Japan 1-2-3. Masahiko Morifuku also threw a scoreless frame, and the score was still 3-0 entering the eighth.

Cuba’s hurler stayed on the hill for another frame with similar results, needing only 14 pitches to get outs from all three batters. The red-and-blue would get González an additional cushion in the bottom of the inning against new pitcher Takeru Imamura.

With one out, Cepeda walked and Abreu hit a long single down the left field line. Despaigne made Imamura pay, ripping a three-run homer to left centre that travelled almost as far as Tomás’. Two strikeouts by Imamura would get Japan out of the eighth, but the lead had grown to 6-0.

González remained on the mound to start the ninth, and finished his run of nine batters retired in-a-row with a long flyout on the warning track in centre field. Mesa called in RaicelIglesías for some extra work, but the righty walked Nakata and pinch hitter KatsuyaKakunaka on full counts.Despite six-run margin, Cuba’s manager yanked his pitcher.

Darién Núñez became the sixth pitcher to take the hill for the red-and-blue. The southpaw fared no better than Iglesías, walking pinch hitter Yuichi Honda on five tosses. Mesa, much to the disbelief of those watching, pulled the left-hander and brought in Vladimir García.

García went to a full count on Hisayoshi Ch?no as Mesa stood gesticulating in the dugout, continuing to bellow in frustration as he had all inning. Desperate to throw a strike, García gave Ch?no something to hit, and Japan’s leadoff hitter bounced a ball over the pitcher’s mound that Arruebarruena made an acrobatic dive to snare.

Ch?no was safe by the time the shortstop could look for an out, and Nakata crossed the plate with the Samurai’s first run. Takashi Toritani then plated a second run on sacrifice fly, and Kakunaka made it 2-0.

With two outs and García throwing strikes, Mesa continued to show his passionate nature, marching to the mound to confer with his hurler, telling Sánchez, the catcher, to remain behind the plate as he conferred with García.

The talk did not appear to do any good, as Ibata stroked a line drive into the first base hole to score Honda. With the chanting crowd reaching a fever pitch, Japan sensed there might be more, but García struck out RyojiAikawa to end the game.

It was the first time since the 2008 Olympics that Cuba had beaten a full strength Japan. Cuba scored six runs on 10 hits, and an extra-base hit was involved on every score. Fernández improved his WBC average to .625 with two more hits, and Abreu and Despaigne joined him with a brace. Six different hitters scored for the red-and-blue, which hit .375 with runners in scoring position.

Ibata and Nakata each had two of Japan’s seven hits. The Samurai left 10 runners on base and were only 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position.

Otonari took the loss despite a strong effort, while the 36-year old Pérez earned his first-ever WBC victory. Guevara and González picked up holds. The team struck out eight to Japan’s 10.

Both teams advance to Tokyo, where Cuba will take on the Netherlands on Mar. 8 at 3 a.m. GMT. Japan will face Asian rivals Chinese Taipei at 10 a.m. GMT on Mar. 9. The WBC changes to double elimination from the second round onward, with the top two teams from each second round bracket advancing to the semifinals.

Check back for more news, analysis, and previews of the rest of the World Baseball Classic.

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