And now, let the real games begin.
The Japanese are the top seed from Pool 1 of the World Baseball Classic by virtue of their 6-2 victory over Korea at PETCO Park on Thursday night. They play Team USA on Sunday at 8 p.m. ET at Dodger Stadium for the right to ascend to the finals and defend their 2006 title.
The likely starters are Daisuke Matsuzaka for Japan and Jake Peavy for the U.S. Runner-up Korea plays Pool 2 winner Venezuela on Saturday night at 9 ET. with Suk Min Yoon expected to match Carlos Silva.
"I'm very excited to play against the American baseball team," Japanese manager Tatsunori Hara said. "When I started watching the Major Leagues, I was very impressed. We need to catch up with the Major Leagues, and we need to go beyond that. That was my education and my circumstances about how I learned to play baseball. That was my baseball.
"I have a great deal of respect for American baseball. And here is a great opportunity right in front of me. I'm so excited about that."
A very sloppy game as both normally sure-handed teams made a combined six errors. Since this game was simply for seeding purposes, both teams played alot of their reserves to make sure everyone on the team got some playing time in the tournament. It was close until Japan scored 3 runs in the 8th to break it open.
One blow for Japan is that power-hitting 3rd baseman Shuichi Murata pulled a hamstring going around 1st base and is probably out for the tournament. They may have to replace him with one of the shortstops which could mean better defense but missing pop at the plate.
I think Japan has enough to defeated a depleted US side but Korea will have its hands full with a powerful Venezuelan side featuring the bats of Abreu, Cabrera, Ordonez and Guillen. Plus if Korea are behind late in the game, they're got no chance of hitting K-ROD! the best closer in the game.