Monday, March 23, 2009

Let's Play FIVE: Japan and Korea in the WBC final

Source: MLB

Japan's trip started in Tokyo more than two weeks ago and continued through a pair of exhibition games in Arizona and a weeklong pit stop in San Diego.

On Sunday, the journey led Japan to Dodger Stadium and a clash with a Team USA squad loaded with Major Leaguers and a boisterous crowd of 43,630, the most for a World Baseball Classic game on American soil.

The result was one for the Japanese history books.

Japan 9, USA 4.

Japan is now headed to the World Baseball Classic championship game to defend its title against Korea in the fifth meeting between the two countries in this tournament. The teams split two games in Pool A at the Tokyo Dome and split two games at PETCO Park in the second round.

Overall, Korea holds a 4-3 advantage in two Classics, although Japan defeated Korea in a single-elimination semifinal game three years ago on its way to the inaugural championship. Korea defeated Venezuela, 10-2, in the other semifinal game on Saturday.

Was a bit tight for Japan at first as Dice-K laboured through 4.2 innings and 98 pitches. But they broke the game open scoring 5 runs in the bottom of the 4th and cruised to a 9-4 win.

So Japan and Korea split their two games in Tokyo and also split their two games in San Diego. Now it's the final showdown at Dodger Stadium.

Korea won a coin flip this morning will be the home team in Monday night's World Baseball Classic Final against Japan. Korea will wear white uniforms and be in the first base dugout and more importantly, bat last while Japan will wear dark blue jerseys and gray pants and be in the third base dugout.

Japan starts Hisashi Iwakuma, who is 1-1 with a 0.73 ERA in 12 1/3 innings in three Classic games this year. In a bit of a surprise, Yu Darvish pitched the ninth inning against the Americans on Sunday. It was thought he might be the choice to start the final. But instead it's Iwakuma who shut out Cuba for six innings in an elimination game in his last outing.

Korea starts Jung Keun Bong, who is 2-0 with a 0.66 ERA in 13 2/3 innings in three Classic appearances this year. Bong's two wins came against Japan – he has a 0.84 ERA in 10 2/3 innings with three strikeouts and just six hits allowed against the Japanese.

The starting pitchers aren't allowed to exceed 100 pitches. It's expected to be a fairly windy, cool night, so that could keep scoring down.

The game tonight starts at 9:30 Eastern Time. You have no excuse but to watch this classic. There is no NCAA tournament so your sporting night should be free!

USA-Japan semifinal highlights

Who will win the 2009 World Baseball Classic

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