Thursday, March 19, 2009

Japan keeps title defense alive

Norichika Aoki went 4-for 5 in the victory

Source: MLB

Don't cry for me, Cuba.

For the second time, the Japanese have knocked the once-irrepressible Cubans out of the World Baseball Classic, this time with a 5-0 victory on Wednesday night at PETCO Park behind six innings of five-hit pitching by right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma.

In 2006, Japan's victory secured the inaugural Classic title. This year, Japan's win secured its place in the final four this weekend at Dodger Stadium along with Team USA, Venezuela and Korea, a team the Japanese play again on Thursday night to determine seeding for the semifinals.

The Cubans made many mistakes and proved to be the amateurs that they are. They may have won World Cups and Olympic Games but this is a best-on-best tournament and the professionals proved why they're professionals.

On a foggy night in San Diego, the Japanese once again defeated the Cuban to advance to the semifinals. The Cubans made a huge error in the 3rd inning that Gave the Japanese a 2-0 lead. Their pitchers and catcher kept arguing over pitches and signs as the Japanese runners kept the Cubans on edge. Cuban managers are also very quick to huddle with pitchers and yank them whenever there is even a sign of trouble. Once they even took out a left-handed pitcher for a right-handed pitcher to face the left-handed batting Aoki, who promptly hit an RBI single to make it 4-0. Very strange and amateurish tactics.

It's Japan against Korea AGAIN tomorrow night. Winner faces USA on Sunday and the loser faces Venezuela on Saturday. It's an important game because Venezuela is on fire and the USA's injury-plagued lineup might be the easier draw for the semifinals. Expect another good one from these two bitter rivals!

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