WBC: Japan 6, Korea 2

A quartet of singles in the top of the 8th inning yielded three runs and broke a 2-2 tie to help Japan overcome Korea and claim the top seed’s position in Pool 1 of Round 2 of the WBC.

Given that both teams were going to the semi-finals in Los Angeles regardless of today’s result, Japanese manager Hara chose to shuffle his lineup for the game. Jojima started as DH batting 4th, Uchikawa was out in leftfield and batting 5th, Murata was at first and batted 6th, Abe came in to catch and Kataoka played third.

Utsumi started the game for Japan, and allowed Korea to take the lead in the bottom of the 1st, giving up two hits to give the Koreans a 0-1 lead. A double play allowed him to escape the inning without any further damage being inflicted.

But Japan would tie it up in the top of the 2nd. Second man up Uchikawa belted one deep over the fence in leftfield for a solo shot to make it 1-1 with one out on the board. Murata then singled to centre but advanced to second on a fielding error from the Korean centre fielder. Iwamura then hit a ground ball to short, but was safe at first due to a throwing error from short stop Choi, which also allowed Murata to advance to third to put men on the corners. Abe then struck out swinging before Kataoka hit a bloop single to right which allowed Murata to score and make it 2-1 Japan.

Utsumi plonked Yong-Kyu Lee in the head with one out in the bottom of the 3rd, and was gone one out later, replaced by Komatsu. The Orix man pitched a hitless 2 2/3 innings, striking out five before being replaced by Tanaka in the 6th.

And Tanaka would be the man to give up the tying run in the bottom of the 7th. A solo blast over the head of centre fielder Aoki and the outfield wall by the wonderfully named Korean Bum-Ho Lee tied things back up again at 2-2.

But Japan didn’t take long to reclaim the lead, and this time for good. An excellent bunt from Aoki got him an infield single to kick off the 8th. Inaba, pinch hitting for Jojima then stroked one to right to put men on the corners with no outs. Ogasawara then pinch hit for Uchikawa and promptly singled to right himself to bring home Aoki to make it 3-2 with men on first and second.  Kamei then layed down a sac-bunt to move the runners along for the first out. Next man up Iwamura singled to centre to bring Inaba home, and a fielding error from the Korean centre fielder allowed Ogasawara to make it home as well to extend the lead to 5-2 Japan.

Yamaguchi, Wakui and Mahara then all combined out of the bullpen to keep the Koreans hitless through the end of the 8th inning before Japan added an insurance run in the top of the 9th.

Ichiro got his first hit of the game, a double, with no outs on the board. After Nakajima moved Ichiro to third on a sac-bunt, Aoki poked one through the middle to bring him home and the score was 6-2 Japan.

In came ace closer Fujikawa who got the job done in the bottom of the 9th and that was the game.

So Japan managed 6 runs off 15 hits, 3 errors and 8 men left on base.

Korea managed 2 runs off their 6 hits, 3 errors and left 6 men on.

Korea’s three errors were one more than they had committed in the whole of the WBC to date.

The only cloud on an otherwise bright day for Japan was the injury to slugger Murata. The Baystars man pulled up with what looked like hamstring trouble after hitting his second single of the day and had to leave the game. Hopefully it isn’t too serious but it would appear that his participation in the 2009 WBC is over. A shame if true as he’s been excellent thus far and shall be sorely missed.

This result meant the two teams’ records are both 5-2 for the tournament as a whole, and 2-2 against each other in 2009.

Both teams now head to Dodgers Stadium, with Korea taking on Venezuela on Saturday before Japan tackle the USA on Sunday.

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

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  • Murata is indeed done for the rest of the WBC. Kenta Kurihara of the Hiroshima Carp will replace him.

  • What a game.. Finally got to be at a game where the bats of Japan were not sleeping. Aoki certainly has been getting some attention in the US media (though they can not seem to say his name correctly).

    Images from the game.

    Would love to go see them play the US up in LA but the ticket prices are just off the chart. I think I could hit about half the season at Jingu for the price of one ticket.

  • More great shots. Thanks again!

    Shame you can’t make it to LA. It does seem they’ve overpriced the tickets for the event. A lot of empty seats, which is a shame as most of the games have been great.

    They really need to re-consider their pricing strategy for the next WBC.

  • Indeed. It seems there’s almost universal agreement among people at the games that halving the ticket prices and making the per-game discount for strips more than a token would boost attendance.

    Whoo! I just took a look at Finals tickets. They start at an entirely unreasonable $55 for top deck seats at Dodger Stadium. In other words, the cheapest, crappiest seats in the house are already straining what even a big WBC and Japan fan such as myself would consider paying. Tickets top out at $550 for the dugout club, which not even Aoki’s mother coulod be faulted for scoffing at. (And on top of that are the extortionate Ticketmaster charges.)

    In Miami, there was also the unfortunate mistake of allowing the Florida Marlins to treat and promote the event as some kind of advertising opportunity for their own struggling club, which attached the stink of failure and apathy to the event as the Marlins have become a colorful symbol for everything South Floridians don’t care about. It wouldn’t surprise me much if the Padres were trying to use the event to their own ends out in San Diego as well. They certainly stacked the ESPN broadcasters’ booth with Padres execs/former players.

    I normally think MLB is good at organizing events and merchandising, but they seem to have gone to the NPB playbook for ticketing on this one. When you’re expecting smaller crowds than you would for a regular-season MLB game, don’t open up more seats than you otherwise would and jack the prices up. What they’re doing at the Final ensures that few likely attendees can go. Kids? Out. Families? Out. Young people? Out. Lower and middle-income people? Out. Enticing people to come from overseas? Fat chance.

    This is idiotic. And much like a sac bunt with an out, it has me all worked up and wanting to do harm to the idiots who, yet again, failed to understand their own product or market and blew it.

  • You hit it right on the head with that one. The prices are insane for an event that most people in the region do not even know is going on. I managed to hit three games but the pain of that will linger for a long long time. It was like buying tickets for a game at Fenway Park.

    I have to say.. Even though the place was empty there was more electricity at these games than any game I have ever been to at Peto Park (except when the Red Sox were in town, but then the stands were filled with Sox fans).

    If they had lower prices I would hit the LA games but at the prices I looked up last night after the game I was shocked. There is no way I can drive up there with my family and not only pay for tickets but purchase those lovely $5 hot dogs.

  • Kantankerous

    From what I can gleam from the expressions of the Korean team, they didn’t really care if they won or lost.

    I think both teams were trying to save their best players for the semi and finals and put players who didn’t get playing time in rotation.

    I think Korea actually came up better by losing than winning because they won’t have to go up against USA. In terms of matchup Korea probably matches up better with Venezuela than USA.

  • Aoki certainly has been getting some attention in the US media (though they can not seem to say his name correctly).

    Not for long, Dan, not for long. Theo Epstein will be teaching everyone how to say his name soon enough.

    Dude, $55 for top deck at Dodger Stadium? Maybe if the Dodgers and Giants were doing a re-enactment of game 3 of the 1951 pennant playoff (Yeah, I know it was at the Polo Grounds).

    I’ve been in those seats, and they are indeed crappy. Barely a view of the action.

    the Marlins have become a colorful symbol for everything South Floridians don’t care about

    Yeah, now that Beckett and Lowell have moved on to greener pastures.

    But seriously, the Padres probably don’t need to do what the Marlins are doing. They drew 29,970 people per game last year (down from 34,445 in 2007), while the Marlins had the worst attendance in MLB for the third year in a row: 16,688 per game. 45.9% of seating capacity was sold. If the Marlins were a hotel, the windows would be shuttered.

    Think about that. The Marlins had fewer asses in seats than the Royals, Rangers and Pirates. Fewer than the A’s! The A’s drew 20,558 fans for their 81 home games last year – and two of those were at the Tokyo Dome and had over 44,000 in attendance.

    Take away the Tokyo Dome games and the A’s drew 19,948 fans per game at home last season.

    Last season there were economic worries, but this summer is going to be a full-blown catastrophe for weaker teams. Last year the Rays made it to the World Series but only drew about 22,000 people per game.

    Only one team drew more fans (I’ll use fans interchangeably with paying customers here) than capacity last year, and that should be easy to guess: the Red Sox at 104%. It’s not exactly a Tozai Line capacity figure (256% at rush hour), but they lead the charge of recession-proof teams. Others include the Cubs (99.1% last year), Tigers (98.6%), Phillies (97.1%) and Yankees (92.3%)

    The point of all this? I agree with you guys that sky-high WBC prices are stupid. They’re stupid in normal times, and utterly foolish during a recession like this one. Garrett, would you agree it’s even dumber than the WBC merchandise tent cities outside the Tokyo Dome?

    It was like buying tickets for a game at Fenway Park.

    Remember when they were $6 for the right field bleachers mate? $1.40 to take the T round trip, $6 for tix and maybe $10 on food at the park.

    I have to stop now before I get going on Gillette Stadium.

  • Kantankerous,

    From what I can gleam from the expressions of the Korean team, they didn’t really care if they won or lost.

    Riiight…did you see their pitcher in the dugout after the 8th inning? That dude was not happy.

    I think both teams were trying to save their best players for the semi and finals and put players who didn’t get playing time in rotation.

    The box score says otherwise, except perhaps for pitching.

  • Kantankerous, ESPN reported during the first inning that, in pre-game interviews, players from both teams said they’d rather play the US than Venezuela. Seems to me that the US would be an easier opponent for both Korea and Japan, esp. with the injuries the US has and their having to call Longoria out of Spring training in FL to LA to fill the hole at 3rd.

    Kenzo, in a rare case, I think I agree with everything you’ve written.

    It was stupid to have almost all of the WBC merch outside of the Tokyo Dome. It was stupid to have under-ordered Korea merchandise so badly that by the first game of the actual WBC, it was nearly impossible to find Korea goods, and it was probably stupid to so wildly inflate the prices of Japan merch at the Tokyo Dome. All Japan caps were 10,500 yen at the stadium. I ordered a fitted, wool New Era 59Fifty replica (MLB pro model, but Japan are wearing mesh Mizunos) for $34 through worldbaseballclassic.com.

    It was equally dumb for Dolphin Stadium to limit the otherwise respectable and thorough marketing to the teams playing there. By the time I went to my first game there on Tuesday, Netherlands stuff was gone, leaving only WBC, USA, Venezuela, and Puerto Rico merch available. Nothing at all for any other country. On Wed., after PR had been knocked out, almost all of the PR merch (of which there had been quite a bit on the racks half an hour after the previous night’s game) was gone. They also made the odd decision of having no T-shirt smaller than men’s XL available in the stadium shops I visited.

    As for the Marlins, I’m surprised the attendance was 16,688. The number mentioned in editorials and by fans down here this week has repeatedly been “roughly 9,000 per game.” On Tues. night, I went with a friend who attends 20-30 Marlins games a year. When he saw the sparse crowd for US vs. PR, he said (I’m paraphrasing), “It’s more than the Marlins draw unless the Mets or Yankees are here.” He also estimated that at least half of the Marlines season-ticket holders were fans of other NL teams, esp. the Cubs and Mets.

    As for percentage of capacity, the Marlins are always going to be screwed there. The capacity of Dolphin Stadium is close to 75,000. For the Marlins, the upper deck is closed and some OF seats are blocked off or retracted, but it still leaves them with roughly 38,000 available seats. Boston, New York, Chicago, and maybe sports-obsessed Cleveland could fill that. No non-football team in FL could. The NHL’s Florida Panthers (who, like the Dolphins and Marlins actually play a lot closer to Fort Lauderdale than Miami), were playing a do-or-die for the playoffs Tues. night and drew no one. That’s South Florida. When we got the Heat, then the Marlins and Panthers, people here overwhelmingly reacted with, “Are they serious? Why? South Florida fans suck. No one will go.”

    I can remember sitting first base line, first row, right behind the Indians’ dugout in the old Cleveland Stadium for $8 as a kid. Of course, in those days, my grandfather, brother, and I made up about half the crowd. Cleveland’s big star was Brett Butler. That ought to tell you something. All that changed in the ’90s and now giving up my first child isn’t good enough to get Indians tix. I have to offer Ken’s first two as well.

  • As for the Marlins, I’m surprised the attendance was 16,688. The number mentioned in editorials and by fans down here this week has repeatedly been “roughly 9,000 per game.”

    That’s not surprising and entirely possible. Keep in mind the difference between reported attendance and actual attendance. No one actually reports how many tickets were torn at the gates.

    Reported attendance includes all the tickets sold, the players, coaches, concession staff, medical crews, stadium staff, security, media, etc. etc. – literally anyone in (or perhaps even on) the building.

  • So on Wed. night, the attendance should have been that number minus 7 for the majority of the US team that didn’t show up.

    I’d bet that, esp. for the Marlins, the discrepancy of 7,000 or so between what the fans see and what the team reports is all corporate boxes that go unused. Until I was in college, I think every pro sporting event I attended (at least in South Florida, where I grew up) involved someone’s father’s company’s tickets, etc. I think I was 21 before I realized it was possible to just buy a ticket and walk in. Like the movies! With beer and peanuts! And obscene Ticketmaster charges!

  • japan-korea, the rubber match of the 5 game series is tomorrow morning. any of you free souls want to watch the game together at a shinjuku Hub 10am?

  • 10 a.m. at the Hub? You’re hard-core, Simon.

    I’m still in the US, but will be watching what is sure to be a nail-biter with you in spirit.

  • Yeah, Hub at 10am on Tuesday is rough. Just in case, which location are you thinking of? I see Shinjuku South Exit and Ikebukuro West/Park Exit, but it looks like Baba won’t be open. Hopefully you’re not thinking of Machida or Tokorozawa…

    Also, I had no idea the Hub had expanded to Kansai.

  • Oh yeah, you said Shinjuku in your comment. Reading comprehension.

  • Yeah, I’m meeting up with a friend at JR Shinjuku South exit at 9:30am. You can get my keitai/contact info from Garrett, or go to my site and go to “About”. It’ll be fun with more people!

  • Hey, we now have the only two teams that really give a damn in the championship game! I mean, did you see that American right fielder in the eighth inning? Poetic justice has been served.

  • Simon

    I would love to have a few jars and watch the game, but I’ve got to make do with watching it at work. Should be good fun regardless though, my colleagues are proper keyed up for it.