WBC: Japan 9, USA 4

The 2009 WBC final will be between Japan and Korea after Japan rolled over a lackluster USA team in the second semi-final at Dodger Stadium. A five run 4th inning did the bulk of the damage for the Japanese, damage from which the USA never recovered despite a late attempt at a comeback.

Daisuke Matsuzaka started this one for Japan, and while not at his best, did enough to take his record in WBC play to 6-0 in his six career starts. Daisuke threw 98 pitches, two off the limit for the final set of games, going 4 and 2/3 innings of five hit two run baseball with four strikeouts and three walks.

The USA opened up the scoring in the top of the 1st, as first man to the plate, second baseman Brian Roberts blasted a leadoff shot over the centrefield wall to make it 0-1 USA.

Japan tied things up in the bottom of the 2nd. DH and cleanup Atsunori Inaba worked a walk to occupy first with no outs. Ogasawara then singled to left with Inaba hustling to third to put men on the corners with none away.  After Fukudome flew out too shallow to score Inaba, next man up Johjima got the job done properly with a deep sac-fly to right, which allowed the run to come home for 1-1.

But the USA would edge their noses ahead again in the top of the 3rd inning. Jimmy Rollins hit a two out single and then promptly stole second to put a man in scoring position. David Wright then worked the count full, before hitting a double to score Rollins and it was 1-2 USA.

But in the bottom of the 4th Japan blew the game wide open.  Consecutive singles from Inaba and Ogasawara off USA starter Roy Oswalt put men on first and second with no outs. Fukudome then hit a ball between first and second that had double play written all over it, but second baseman Roberts made a hash of it (ruled an error), allowing Inaba to score for 2-2 and Ogasawara to reach third.  Johjima then hit his second sac-fly of the game to put Japan ahead 3-2 with one out. Next man up Akinori Iwamura hit a triple to score Fukudome and make it 4-2 Japan. But Japan’s batters weren’t quite done with Oswalt yet. Third baseman Kawasaki, in for the injured Murata, singled to bring home Iwamura for 5-2 Japan.  After Ichiro grounded out, moving Kawasaki along, shortstop Nakajima hit a double to bring him home and top off the scoring for the inning at 6-2 Japan.

That was the end of Oswalt’s game, and it should probably have been over much sooner as he’d pretty much completely lost the strike zone in the 4th inning, allowing Japan to dine-out at his expense.

After the departure of Matsuzaka, Sugiuchi (1 and 1/3 inning) and Tanaka (1 inning) kept the score at 6-2 before Mahara took the mound in the top of the 8th, and the American’s threatened to get back in the game.

Ryan Braun hit a one out double to leftfield, before Brian McCann earned a walk to put men on first and second. Mark DeRossa then hit another double to left, allowing Braun to score, and McCann to follow him home following an error from Aoki. Norichika lost the ball in the corner of the Dodger Stadium outfield, and also had to contend with a stadium staff and his chair, as the USA narrowed the deficit to 6-4.

But that was as close as they would get, as Japan pulled away in the bottom of the same inning. Fukudome earned a leadoff walk and was replaced with pinch-runner Kataoka. Johjima then layed down a perfect sacrifice bunt to move Kataoka to second with one out. Kataoka would make it to third on a groundout from Iwamura. Kawasaki then hit one to shortstop Derek Jeter, but the Yankee overcooked his throw to first. Kataoka was home, Kawasaki was safe, Jeter had himself an error and most importantly it was 7-4 Japan with two outs.

More misery was to come for the USA though. Ichiro came to bat, Kawasaki stole second, then Japan’s favourite Baseball Son got his nightly “rise from your grave” hit, singling to score Kawasaki for 8-4. Nakajima then wrapped up the scoring for the game, hitting a double which, due to some extremely lackadaisical fielding from rightfielder Dunn, allowed Ichiro to power home from first. 9-4 Japan.

Rather surprisingly, in came Darvish to pitch the top of the 9th, and despite giving up a hit to the always dangerous Rollins, he got his three outs and it was 9-4 Final.

So Japan managed 9 runs off 10 hits, 1 error and 6 men left on base.

The USA managed 4 runs off their 9 hits, 3 errors and left 10 men on.

The man brought over to replace Murata, Hiroshima Carp Kenta Kurihara, made an appearance in the 7th inning, pinch hitting for DH Inaba. He struck out.

Aoki was hitless for the game with an error. Nakajima, Ogasawara and Kawasaki all had two hit games, the latter reminding manager Hara why he perhaps should have been in the starting lineup sooner.

And so it’s “Japan vs Korea V” in the 2009 Final. Japan will start with the classy right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma who has an 0.73 ERA in his 12 and 1/3 innings in the 2009 Classic thus far. Korea will counter with their “Japan-Killer”, Jung Keun Bong, who can boast a 0.66 ERA in his 13 and 2/3 innings work so far. Ominously for Japan, his two victories have both come against them.

It is a mouthwatering prospect to say the least, and should be quite a game. Whatever the result, Asian baseball can be very proud of it’s progress on the world stage in 2009.

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

  • Pretty much the result we expected, though a sloppier game from the US than I thought we’d see.

    Dice K is still coming off the rubber weird during his early pitches from the windup. When he gets to the stretch it looks ok, but there’s something odd about his footwork in his early pitches. I saw this in the first Korea game as well. I’m sure Theo, Francona and Farrell have been thinking about this more than I have.

    One thing is for sure: Yu Darvish went from being on the radar to being easily worth $15 million a year in the bigs. Any scout who was on the fence about him before today isn’t any more. Does he look like a young right handed Sandy Koufax or does he look like a young right handed Sandy Koufax?

    Nakajima has shown that he can start on any MLB team. I want him too.

    Totally unrelated: Goodbye Curt Schilling. Too bad his blog can’t handle all the extra traffic.

    Schilling vs. Ichiro in 1998:

  • It was quite a game. I am not sure the US commentators could decide if the US was fielding a good team or not. They kind of flip flopped depending on who was in the lead.

    Darvish looked good coming in to finish off the game. I would guess many scouts are focused on him now but I heard that he was happy to stay in Japan. Will be interesting to see if he really means that when the thought of BIG MLB dollars come knocking.

    Should be a great game this evening. Wonder how many in the US will be watching this one.

    Dreams for the future – Red Sox pickup Darvish and Aoki.. 🙂