WBC: Japan 6, Cuba 0

Japan announced their arrival in the second round of the 2009 WBC with a comprehensive victory over the much fancied Cubans in San Diego on Sunday afternoon.

The victory was based around strong pitching, with a majestic start from Daisuke Matsuzaka. The Japanese ace pitched 6 innings of five hit ball, striking out eight and walking none. Iwakuma, Mahara and Fujikawa pitched an inning each in relief to shut out the Cuban bats that had been so frightening in the previous round.

Hara made a couple of changes to the batting lineup, Kataoka replacing his Seibu teamate Nakajima at short, Ogasawara was the DH while Uchikawa started at first.  

Young pitching phenom Chapman started for the Cubans, a man who can throw a plus 100mph heater one pitch and follow it up with a sub 80mph breaking ball the next.  Chapman was not on his greatest form Sunday though, walking Ogasawara and Uchikawa in the 2nd, but escaped as he picked off the daydreaming Ogasawara at first followed by Uchikawa trying to steal second.

Japan got on the board in the top of the 3rd. Jojima hit a single to centre to lead off the inning. Iwamura singled to put men on first and second. Ichiro then layed down one of his trademark bunts, but Jojima’s lack of speed meant he was thrown out at third, to leave two men on with one out.

Kataoka then singled to load the bases, which was the last action Chapman saw as Cuba went to the bullpen. The new pitcher Gonzalez promptly threw two strikes past Aoki before a wild pitch allowed Iwamura to score from third and the runners to advance to make it 1-0 Japan. Aoki then blooped a single to right which allowed another run to score and it was 2-0. Next man Murata hit a sacrifice fily to right to allow Kataoka to score to make it 3-0 Japan.

The bottom of the 3rd saw the sun come into play, as Ichiro droped a Paret fly ball in foul territory for a rare error, followed by Jojima dropping one behind the plate for a second error. Matsuzaka then took matters into his own hands and struck out Paret looking to let his two teammates off the hook.

Japan added on a run in the 4th. The bright conditions came into play again as a Jojima fly ball to right was lost in the sun by the Cuban fightfielder Despaigne and Jojima was able to reach second. Iwamura then singled before Ichiro brought home Jojima for 4-0.

And another came in the 5th. Murata was hit by a pitch to put him on first with one out. Ogasawara hit a line drive to right, with Murata hustling on the basepaths to put men on first and third. Uchikawa then poked one through the middle to score his Yokohama teammate and extend the lead to 5-0.

Japan’s final run would come in the top of the 9th. Kawasaki, pinch hitting for Kataoka, singled before Aoki sac-bunted to move him to second with one out. Next man Murata then singled to score Kawasaka to bring the scoring to a close at 6-0.

So Japan managed 6 runs off 12 hits, 2 errors and 9 men left on base.

Cuba managed 0 runs off their 8 hits, 0 errors and left 6 men on.

Other points of note in the game:

Iwamura, who struggled in the Tokyo round, went 2 for 3 with a run and a walk, to add valuable production from the bottom of the order.

Ogasawara, while getting himself two hits still showed his chump-like tendencies by allowing himself to be picked off at first in the 2nd. Also, while on second base in the 5th, with Uchikawa on first and Fukudome at the plate, a wild pitch that should have allowed the runners to advance almost saw Uchikawa thrown out retreating to first. Ogasawara was seemingly daydreaming again and moved not a jot, as Uchikawa made the jump toward second. Sure, Uchikawa should have followed the lead (or lack of it) of the man at second, but it was an opportunity lost because of Ogasawara’s sloth-like reactions.  Fukudome eventually singled but that would only move the Yomiuri man to third, which is as far as he advanced that inning.

Jojima seems to have brought his good form from the last round with him as he went 2 for 4 with a run. Good news for fans of both Japan and the Mariners.

I opted to avoid the endless commercials by watching the game on Satellite TV instead of Japanese terrestrial coverage. MLB international supplied the footage and English commentary to boot. Aside from the continual botched pronnunciations (Norichika AYoki anyone?), it was interesting to note that whenever stats were listed on the screen for the Japanese, the Japanese league recieved a name change from NPB to NBL. I didn’t realise that I’d been watching the Nippon Baseball League all these years! Come on MLB, is it too hard to employ someone to make sure you get the simplest of things (such as the name of the Japanese equivalent of the MLB) right?

So Japan now get a day off to watch Cuba play the loser of the Mexico-Korea matchup, and they will play the winner of said game on Tuesday evening for a place in the semi-finals.

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

  • Japan will now play Korea in a qualification match Tuesday after the Koreans dispatched Mexico with ease 8-2.

    Before that though, Cuba face Mexico in an elimination match on Monday evening for the right to play the loser of the Japan Korea game in the next elimination match.

  • This is starting to make me wonder about the format. Cuba and Mexico have already played each other, and Japan and Korea have played twice already (sounds like last time).

    Perhaps one team from Tokyo should have gone to San Diego and the other to Miami, while one team from Mexico city should have gone to San Diego and the other to Miami.

  • That would make the travel arrangements hell, Kenzo. I’m sure the days off and all that are pretty well parsed by the players’ unions. Besides, mixing things up in the second round could increase the chances of rematches in the semis or final, which would be a bit anti-climactic. The current set up gives it a bit of a World Series/Japan Series feel, don’t you think?

    What we really need is for Taiwan and China to step up their game, so that Japan and Korea can stop repeatedly playing each other.

    The rematches should become fewer in 2013, though – there might be 24 countries participating.

  • They could end up playing each other two more times in this round, no?

  • Dan Seiden

    It was amazing to see Matsuzaka pitch so well. I have seen him here in 07 playing for the Red Sox where he was also quite good but yesterday he just seemed unstoppable.

    Aoki looked good as well and I just hope they can keep up the consistant play tomorrow night against Korea. Still no announcement on the pitcher but hopefully I will get to see Darvish pitching.

    Will try and post a link to some images I got from Sunday’s game tomorrow.

  • Hi Dan

    Daisuke did look pretty untouchable on Sunday.

    Aoki is also having a great tournament so far. He looked a very tough out throughout the Cuban game, with some nice long at bats to help work up the pitch count.

    Will try and post a link to some images I got from Sunday’s game tomorrow.

    Please do, that would be great.

  • Well I started to post a few images so far.

    Saturday afternoon practice

    Sunday game vs. Cuba

    I will be posting more images from the Cuba game tomorrow. Took a ton of shots.. still sorting thru them all.

    I will also be posting some images from the Korea game later in the week. Should be a good one tomorrow night.

  • Awesome, thanks for posting those!

  • Rob

    Nice pics, Dan! Not sure ifi I like the game shots or the practice shots better – neat stuff!