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WBC: Korea vs. Japan

by on Mar.07, 2009 @ 1:13 am, under WBC

TV Asahi is carrying the game LIVE on TV tonight. They are actually broadcasting a recap of the first WBC, as well as some news bits on the current WBC. The show is now featuring various interviews with Ichiro on the WBC.

Tonight's Starters
Daisuke Matsuzaka will start for Japan. "Japan Killer" Kwang-Hyun Kim gets the start for Korea. Kim has pitched in 5 games against Japan (various tournaments) and is 2-0 with a 2.84 ERA. He's also coming off his recent success against Japan during the Olympics, in which he tossed 14.1 innings while holding Japan to 2 runs.

Key Player
I really think Ichiro is going to be the key in this game. Unless he gets his bat going, Japan may have a time getting their offense going. Assuming Ichiro is leading off again, if he's still sputtering, it'll always mean 1 or 2 outs by the time the big hitters come up to bat (Inaba, Murata).

In preparation for the game against Korea, Ichiro took 90 swings of the bat prior to full-squad practice, plus another 73 swings during full-squad practice. Ichiro is currently mired in a 0-for-16 slump (stretching back to the recent exhibition games).

Other Stuff
Because Darvish only tossed 46 pitches during his start against China, it's entirely possible he could be used in tonight's game, if needed. If Matsuzaka gets in trouble early, or if the bullpen can't hold Korea down, I wouldn't be surprised if Darvish makes a surprise appearance. At this point, it wouldn't really make sense to "save" him for the next game.

An online survey held by Asahi Beverages shows that 51.4% of respondents believe that Japan will win the WBC this year. That's a big change over the 20.5% from the first WBC. About 3,000 people above the age of 20 participated in the online survey.

TV ratings from the Japan vs. China game was at 28.2% in the Kanto and 31.1% in the Kansai region.

According to JoongAng Ilbo (a Korean paper), Korean fans almost lost out on the chance to watch WBC games in Korea. Fortunately, IB Sports and KBS (along with 2 other stations) were able to come to terms at the last minute.

Some updated notes gathered from TV
Kwang-Hyun Kim feels that he has the most trouble with Aoki. When asked about what kind of approach Aoki has for Kim, he said he basically ignores anything low and focuses on pitches that are up in the zone. Kim throws a nasty slider that drops -- Aoki says that holding off on this pitch is key.

Dae Ho Lee has trouble against side-arm throwers. You can bet that Watanabe will be in there against Lee if needed.