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Korea deals Japan a blow at WBC
Defending champ Japan and Korea’s third pairing this WBC followed convincing wins by each side over Cuba and Mexico, respectively, serving as a fitting rubber game after the sides split their first two games.
Three early — and not fully deserved — runs in the first inning off pitcher Yu Darvish put the Samurai in the hole. That sent many Japanese to local lunchtime offerings, as the televised game played midday at offices around the country, likely to score huge ratings.
Those leaving missed the tall half-Japanese, half-Iranian, right-hander racking up strikeouts, while the offense squandered multiple scoring opportunities.
An Ichiro ground out scratched back a run, but he killed another rally in the 7th with a man on by popping up, shrinking his measly batting average to .174 and raising doubts about his leading-off.
But Japan’s most prolific hitter was far from alone in frustration, and though singles were enough to beat Cuba, they were too few and far between to win this game, which ended with Korea sticking their national flag on the stadium’s pitcher’s mound, a scene likely to be replayed often this evening.
Japan now must beat Cuba again to advance to the semi-finals and possibly — improbably — a fourth meeting this tournament with their Asian rival. Certainly, recapturing the WBC crown would be sweet, but after a combined six losses in the last two tournaments and Beijing Olympics, defeating Korea alone might be enough.
Photo credit: REUTERS/Danny Moloshok