WBC: Japan 1, Korea 4

This one did not start well for Yu Darvish and team Japan. Darvish threw far more balls than strikes in the first inning of this game. His first three pitches were balls above the strike zone, and his first two pitches to Korea’s second, third and fourth batters were outside the zone. Behind in the count against most of the batters he faced, he wasn’t able to get into a groove, and things got a little out of hand. Darvish was mercifully let out of this one by way of a broken-bat 6-4-3 double play, but not before being tagged with three runs. 3-0 Korea (after one inning).

But Darvish calmed down after that. He started locating his slider a little bit better in the second and he struck out all three batters he faced. He also looked to be in very good control during the third and fourth innings where he was able to get four infield ground outs, an infield pop fly and a strikeout. He also recorded one strikeout and gave up only one hit during those two innings.

In the fifth he retired all three batters he faced including two guys striking out swinging. His last pitch of the game was a 94 mph heater. The Yu Darvish that left the game at the end of the fifth was a very different pitcher from the one that limped to the bench after the first.

Team Japan got a run in the top of the fifth when Ichiro managed to bring Fukudome in from third on yet another force out (Iwamura thrown out at second). 3-1 Korea.

Then the pitching changes started, and the game slowed way down. The only thing of  note to occur over the next two innings was that Johjima was ejected from the game for leaving his bat in the box in protest of a called third strike that he disagreed with. This meant that  Ishihara had to come in and catch, so only Abe was left in the bullpen. That, of course, made things more challenging for Japan’s manager, Hara, as there was no element of surprise involved with who would be the next pitcher coming out of Japan’s bullpen.

Then things fell apart a little bit more. Korea loaded the bases in the bottom of the eigth with the help of three walks–two by Wakui (the second intentional) and then one by his replacement, Iwata. Iwata then got two quick strikes on the next batter but ended up giving him a free pass to first in the end which resulted in an insurance run crossing the plate. 4-1 Korea.

In the top of the ninth, Japan’s last chance, Inaba got things started with a single up the middle, and Fukudome managed to move him over to second, but that was as far as things got. Tokyo Swallows closer, Chang-yong Lim, came in to button things up for team Korea. He got Abe (Japan’s third catcher of the night to make it into the lineup) to fly out harmlessly to left before Iwamura was called out on a check-swing third strike.

Final score: Korea 4-1 Japan.

Observations:

Korea’s first baseman, Tae-kyun Kim, has a good glove. He made three great plays at first. Nothing got by him in this game.

Darvish looked like his old self by the end of the fifth. His slider was nasty at that point, and he was flirting with both sides of the plate with a lot more confidence. Mixing in the curve ball was also a nice touch.

Ichiro still doesn’t have a hit in the second round of this tournament.

About Christopher Pellegrini

Christopher is a budding sabermetrician and long-time supporter of Tokyo's more lovable team, the Swallows. He has publicly volunteered, several times, that he plans to buy the team at some point in the future. When he finally runs the joint, it is likely that he will fine any player who swings at the first pitch or sac bunts (unless it's a pitcher, of course). Follow him on Twitter: @chrispellegrini

  • And so they must play Cuba again tomorrow. I honestly can’t see them beating the Cubans twice in a row but you never know…….

  • It was painful to watch the first inning. Darvish looked so fluid but his control was lacking..

    I was surprised at how many Koreans there were at the game. They were very loud and filled the first base side with a sea of blue.

    Should have some images from the game posted tomorrow. Will shoot a link over here when I have some of them up. Sat a bit closer this evening than the Cuba game so was able to get some nice shots of the mound.

    Lets hope Japan comes back with a decent starter against Cuba.. oh and hopefully they can figure out how to put some runs on the board. Even without the pitching funk in the first they still only got 1 run.

  • I got pissed off during the first inning and quit watching. I put it back on later by my fears were only confirmed – one bad inning is enough to blow a game.

    What’s with not having a dedicated bullpen catcher? I guess they don’t travel with someone who can catch a baseball. None of the guys on the bench can put on the gear? Or would that risk messing up their hair (ie, getting injured)?

    At the rate he’s going, just stick Ichiro in the bullpen and let him catch the relief pitchers as they warm up. At least he won’t leave so many people on base.

    They could have probably pulled someone from the stands to catch in t he bullpen.

  • Korean fans made a good showing at the last WBC in SD as well.

    Hara mismanaged the team into submission. What was Iwata doing up there on the mound walking batters when there were better pitchers on the mound before and after him? And replacing Uchikawa with Inaba just because of the lefty-righty thing, I mean Uchikawa hit .351 against righties last season!

    The Cuba rematch with Iwakuma on the mound should be interesting. Not sure who the Cubans have available to pitch so Japan has a chance of beating Cuba again.

  • Hara mismanaged the team into submission. What was Iwata doing up there on the mound walking batters when there were better pitchers on the mound before and after him? And replacing Uchikawa with Inaba just because of the lefty-righty thing, I mean Uchikawa hit .351 against righties last season!

    ^^^This.

    Plus Iwata looked like a sawn-off shotgun in his inning of relief in the 14-2 game but that didn’t cost them anything. He looked almost as bad today.

  • I think Hara felt he could get away with putting Iwata in because Yamaguchi made it through his stint unscathed.

    However, that was a nasty position to stick Iwata in the middle of. Runners on second and third with two outs.

    That said, all he really needed to do was get someone to hit a ground ball. Any way you slice it, there really wasn’t a good reason to put him in there.

    Two more observations:
    1. After that little miscue in the first where Iwamura threw to Kataoka at second on a fielder’s choice, and Kataoka didn’t catch the ball (moderate pressure applied by the runner), the Japanese commentators immediately started blaming Iwamura. According to the angle I saw in the replay, Kataoka was to blame for that one. Korea scored a run on that little foul-up.

    Anyone see it from more than one angle?

    2. Nobody else has said it yet, so I’m going to. That was a really, REALLY stupid thing that Johjima did. They skipped over that part of the game in the replays shown on the networks over here immediately after the game. I’m sure that they’ll mention it on the news tonight, but he really let the team down in my view.

    And I’m a big Johjima fan. He’s shown himself to be a great team leader in this tournament, and he plays for Seattle, which is a team I’ve followed since Griffey, Jr. moved from the Vermont Mariners up to double-A when he was still a teenager.

    Anyway, the team was visibly deflated after that little tantrum, and not having his bat in the lineup there at the end in the ninth was a big disappointment. Also, I can’t help but think that he would have done a better job controlling Wakui and Iwata than Ishihara did (although Ishihara is a very competent catcher).

  • Chris:

    1) I believe Kataoka was charged with an error for that play.

    2) Yes, it was stupid and costly. They missed his nous behind the plate which may have helped to prevent the 4th Korean run. Plus he’s one of the few guys with any kind of power so they could have used him at the plate in the 9th instead of Abe.

  • Dave,
    You’re right. Kataoka was charged with the error. I don’t know why I missed that. But even this article on the WBC site makes it sound like it was kind of Iwamura’s fault that Kataoka got charged with an error.

    The first one the article mentions, on the other hand, where he couldn’t figure out what to do with the ball, and all runners were safe: I agree with that one. That was Iwamura’s fault.

    Anyway, he was a party to two chaotic and costly plays in the bottom of the first, so I guess I can see why he gets nailed with a meaty portion of the blame.

  • It was all a bit messy really. The sloppy fielding and wobbly first from Darvish, Jojima’s ejection, walking in the 4th run and all those missed chances.

    Korea on the other hand were deadly professional and utterly focused, and ultimately that brought their deserved victory.

  • I was also impressed with the gutsiness of the manager bringing Gwang-hyeon Kim in to close after what happened to him in Tokyo the last time he ran into Hara Japan (yes, I’m renaming the team).

    That took cojones.

  • Nasty situation or not, it’s Iwata’s job to come into the game and get people out. I’m sure he’d love to come into every game with bases empty, 2 outs and an 0-2 count to the #9 hitter, but it isn’t going to happen.

    Hara Japan…yeah…bara bara Japan. They’re just not playing like a cohesive unit. Things have to turn around against Cuba or there’s real trouble ahead.

    Jojima’s actions are purely based on frustration. I was surprised to see that coming from him. He’s almost irreplaceable on that team, and the ejection didn’t seem to get the boys fired up.

  • Just posted some images from the game. Fingers are crossed for this evening.. I am hoping to catch the game Thursday if all goes well.

  • Rob

    Wow – thanks again, Dan. Nice work!

  • Great pics Dan. Thanks for sharing!

    Just over 2 hours until game time. All my friends who called in sick/said they had a meeting with a client/took a half day yesterday all went to work today. I’m not sure if it’s too painful to watch, the noon start is more difficult, or bosses are catching on…