WBC: Japan 14, Korea 2

Well, where do I start? Let’s start with the afternoon game, which saw China shock Taipei 4-1 to send Terry Collins’ Chinese team through to Sunday’s game to face the loser of the big one, Japan vs Korea. Taipei were never really in the game and have looked listless during their two outings, scoring just the one run and never really looking threatening in any way. Nevertheless it’s sad to see them, and their small army of friendly and enthusiastic fans, leave the tournament early.

So now on to the big one. Korea came into Saturday’s game looking the more menacing of the two teams, after their 9-0 taking apart of Taipei the night before, while Japan had misfired offensively in their laboured 4-0 victory over China on Thursday.

Add that to the fact that Korea have tended to get the better of Japan in these matchups in recent times, and the game was a mouthwatering prospect indeed. And so it turned out to be, but just not in the way anyone had expected.

This was the game in which Japan started to look like the team they do on paper, stuffed with talent and experience and capable of some wonderful baseball.  They knocked around four Korean pitchers to the tune of 14 hits, scoring a whopping 14 runs to Korea’s 2, before the game was called after the 7th due to the mercy rule.

Ichiro broke out of his slump with three hits for the night, and the upturn in fortunes for Japan’s talisman seemed to light a fire under the rest of the lineup as everyone bar Ogasawara and Iwamura got in on the hitting act.

Murata (3RHR in the 2nd) and Jojima (2RHR  in the 6th) both went deep as the Japanese piled on the humiliation to their fiercest rivals.

Japan’s other RBIs came from Aoki (3), Nakajima (2), Uchikawa (2) and Ogasawara (1) while Japan’s other run was walked in by Korea.

Ex-Swallow Akinori Iwamura did contribute, despite going hitless, walking twice and eventually scoring both times.

Daisuke Matsuzaka started for Japan and overcame a wobbly 1st, in which he gave up a monster two run dinger to Korean firstbaseman Kim, but after that looked relatively stable in his remaining three scoreless innings.  Watanabe and Sugiuchi pitched hitless 5th and 6th innings respectively before Iwata came in for a shaky 7th, but the Koreans were well and truly stifled.

45,000 or so people were packed into Tokyo Dome for this one and I have to say, the atmosphere was possibly the best I have ever witnessed at a ballgame in Japan. Fans were keyed up and greeted every hit as though they’d just won the tournament itself. The (Mexican) wave even made an appearance late on, with the small band of travelling Korean fans in leftfield even joining in, much to the delight of the Japanese fans.

All in all, a wonderful night, and one I’ll remember for quite sometime to come.

Japan are now guaranteed a trip to the next round of the WBC in the US. They now have a day off before they meet the winner of Sundays’s elimination game between Korea and China on Monday evening to decide the No.1 and No.2 Asian round teams.

Videos from the game can be found here (complete with plenty of entertaining mispronunciations) as well as the video recap below.

Japan 14- Korea 2

About David Watkins

David is a baseball bothering Brummie who spends a fair portion of his life fretting over the Tokyo Swallows and the WORLD'S GREATEST FOOTBALL TEAM, Aston Villa. He completes the quartet of abusive sporting relationships by being a die hard New York Knicks and Mets fan. You can find him on twitter: @yakulto

  • Yeah, the atmosphere was absolutely electric, by far the best I’ve been in. Who would’ve expected this result though!? Then again, this is still early in the tournament.

  • Right Simon.

    It’s still early and Korea’s destruction of China tonight makes Monday’s game all the more intriguing.

  • MLB’s Noah Coslov: “NorriCHEEka Ay-yo-ki,” “Sigh-EEchi UchiKArra,” “Tie-kyoon-kim.” Seriously, there’s having trouble with foreign names, then there’s not even trying at all with people who are central to what you’re supposed to be reporting. Butchering names can border on disrespect, especially in this situation, when there’s no reason he should have trouble with, say “Aoki” or “Uchikawa” – English contains both “Ah” and “W.”

    I’m still feeling a bit high from last night and a bit vicariously nationalistic. Would a big butt-whooping from Japan convince my countrymen to at least give the bare modicum of respect that would come through kind of trying on players’ names? Come on, Nick Cose-BILLo (that’s about as close as he was), just try. You wouldn’t call A-Rod, “Alerr Bodrigizzi.” (But I shall, from now on.)

    Hell of night, though. A Team Japan in that form leaves no doubt as to who the world’s best baseball team is, when they do their best. Monday night will be very interesting indeed.

    Much respect to the Korean fans as well, for being such good sports and keeping the greatest wave ever (which makes it the only good wave I’ve ever seen) going even while being gutted in a way that few outside of the Tsubamegun can really understand. (Yokohama fans, we’ll see you at the group therapy session.)

  • Yeah, his pronunciation sucked. No one bothered to coach him. The worst part was his Murata-san butchering of the man’s name (when Murata-sensei would have been more appropriate).

    That said, Japan blew it big time tonight. Where did the bats go? Which team is going to show up against Cuba in round 2? Does anyone aside from Murata, Aoki and Nakajima plan to show up?

    Why is Ogasawara still out there?

    Seriously, FTW on the bunts? Did Hara panic and forget the odds? Can he get away with that against Cuba?

    We need Darvish to come out and pitch the game of his life for Japan to beat Cuba 3-2 in the next round.

  • Why is Ogasawara still out there?

    Hara.

    Seriously, FTW on the bunts?

    Hara.

    Did Hara panic and forget the odds?

    No, he never knew the odds. Someone probably tried to tell him the odds at some point, at which time he surely brushed them off with something to the effect of, “I am Hara. I played for Yomiuri and was popular as much for my looks and for not being Ochiai as I was for my ability. Therefore, I am a genius. Giants fans say so.”

    Can he get away with that against Cuba?

    I should say not. He couldn’t get away with it against Korea and Cuba will pose at least as much of a challenge.