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WBC: Japan at Korea – Game day – Japan beats Korea in 10, 5-2

by on Mar.23, 2009 @ 8:43 pm, under WBC
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Starting pitchers:

Hisashi Iwakuma
1-1, 3 G, 2 GS, 12.1 IP, 8 H, 1 ER, 1 R, 4 BB, 9 SO, 0.73 ERA, 0.97 WHIP

Jung Keun Bong
2-0, 3 G, 2 GS, 13.2 IP, 8 H, 1 ER, 1 R, 3 BB, 3 SO, 0.66 ERA, 0.80 WHIP

Early reports indicate that Johjima will be hitting clean-up and that both Kurihara and Kataoka will be in the starting line-up (Hara is loading up the line-up with righties).

Starting line-ups:

JAPAN            KOREA
RF Suzuki        CF Lee, Y
SS Nakajima      DH Lee, Jin
CF Aoki          LF Kim, H
C  Johjima       1B Kim, T
1B Ogasawara     RF Choo
LF Uchikawa      3B Lee, B
DH Kurihara      2B Ko
2B Iwamura       C  Park, Ky
3B Kataoka       SS Park, Ki

SP Iwakuma       SP Bong

For those wondering, this article mentions that Darvish could be available to pitch in relief again tonight against Korea.

Here are his exact comments from the article:

"I threw that last pitch with all my might so I'm not sure how my shoulder will feel tomorrow, but I intend on being ready if needed."

Umpires: HP: Derryl Cousins. 1B: Carlos Rey. 2B: Ron Kulpa. 3B Willie Rodriguez. LF: Paul Emmel. RF: Paul Hyham.

Weather: 70 degress, clear.
Wind: 10 mph, Out of CF.


Top of the First
Decent inning there for Japan. They made Bong throw 28 pitches (15 strikes) that inning. Johjima had a really nice 9-pitch at bat -- he was down 0-2 and managed to fight his way back to get a walk.

I'm not really sure how I feel about bunting Nakajima so early in the game.

Bong also seemed to be struggling with his command a bit, like having a hard time getting his curve over for a strike.

Bottom of the First
Nice first inning for Iwakuma: a strike out and 2 ground ball outs.

10 pitches (6 strikes) that inning.

Top of the Second
Japan threatened again, getting two runners on after 2 out. Ichiro ended the inning with a ground out to first.

With the 23 pitches (13 strikes) Bong threw that inning, he's now sitting on 51 (28 strikes) for the game.

Bottom of the Second
1-2-3 inning for Iwakuma. Foul out, strike out, and a ground out to second. So far so good for Iwakuma.

13 pitches (7 strikes) that inning.

Top of the Third
Tough inning offensively for Japan. They did manage to score the first run of the game, but they ruined a great chance to put a couple more runs on the board when Kurihara grounded into a double play. This is where you begin to wonder how things would have turned out had Murata not gotten injured.

Japan did make Bong throw more pitches that inning -- 74 pitches (46 strikes) overall.

Bottom of the Third
Iwakuma continues to pitch well -- he's on a really nice pace right now. Pop out to first, strike out looking, and a ground out to second.

7 pitches (5 strikes) that inning.

Top of the Fourth
First 1-2-3 inning for Bong. He only needed 8 pitches (5 strikes) for that inning. He's now sitting at 82 pitches (51 strikes) for the game.

Bottom of the Fourth
Iwakuma had a bit of a problem in the fourth in his last start against Korea (he held Korea hitless through 4 innings in that game as well) and he almost ran into some problems again here after getting the first two outs of the inning.

But he got out of the inning on a LONG fly ball to right.

17 pitches (10 strikes) that inning.

Top of the Fifth
Another inning where Japan should have been able to score at least 1 more run. Instead Johjima strikes out for the first out and a strike 'em out (Ogasawara), throw 'em out (Aoki) double play for the final 2 outs of the inning.

Jong really did a great job in relief there for Korea.

Bottom of the Fifth
Iwakuma gave up a lead-off gaming-tying homer to Choo, but bore down and got the next three outs (including a great play Uchikawa made for the second out).

Incidentally, Iwakuma only has 5 ground ball outs and 4 fly ball outs in the game so far. Based on these two numbers alone, Iwakuma isn't really having a very effective game.

13 pitches (8 strikes) that inning.

Top of the Sixth
1-2-3 inning for Jong -- Japan is having hard time catching up to his fastball. Jong now has 3 strike outs over 2 inning of work.

Bottom of the Sixth
A bit of a scary inning there for Japan. Walks have come back to haunt Japan a number of different times and Iwakuma walked Lee, Y after getting the first out of the inning -- he's probably the last batter you really want to walk.

Fortunately for Japan, they managed a strike 'em out (Lee, Jin), throw 'em out (Lee, Y) double play to end the inning.

14 pitches (6 strikes) that inning.

Top of the Seventh
Another bad inning for Japan's offense. They did manage to score a run, but they really should have been able to score at least one more run. Instead, Johjima hits into a double play to end the inning.

Bottom of the Seventh
1-2-3 inning for Iwakuma, but all three outs came on fly balls.

10 pitches (6 strikes) that inning.

Top of the Eighth
Iwamura comes through with a really big sac fly to give Japan another run.

Now the question is, who pitches the 8th and 9th for Japan?

Bottom of the Eighth
For some reason, Hara trotted Iwakuma out against for the eighth. Why he did, I have no idea. If that weren't enough, he left him in even after giving up a lead-off double.

They bunt in the first inning to try and get a run and yet they don't take a pitcher out to protect a 2-run lead in the 8th. Makes no sense.

And not only did Japan give up a crucial run, Korea gets to send up their 2, 3, and 4 batters to plate in the bottom of the 9th.

Iwakuma's final line:
7.1 IP, 27 BF, 4 H, 2 BB, 6 SO, 7 GO, 8 FO, 96 pitches (54 strikes)

Top of the Ninth
Japan had another good chance to tack on a run (runners on first and second with 1 out), but failed. This is why giving up that second run in the 8th is big.

Bottom of the Ninth
It looked like Sugiuchi would start the ninth, but after Korea announced a pinch hitter, Hara made the move to bring in Darvish.

Sugiuchi's final line:
0.1 IP, 1 BF, 0 H, 0 BB, 0 SO, 0 GO, 1 FO, 5 pitches (2 strikes)

Darvish quickly got the first out, but then walked the next two batters. He struck out Choo for the second out, but then gave up a game-tying single to Bum Ho Lee. Darvish struck out Ko to end the inning.

Top of the Tenth
Just as Hara suffered from a brain fart in leaving Iwakuma in, seems like Korea also suffered a bit of a brain fart in the top of the 10th by pitching to Ichiro. They probably felt they could get him out based on how they've pitched to him in the past 4 games, but this isn't the same Ichiro they faced in those 4 games.

Bottom of the Tenth
Darvish walked the lead-off batter but bore down after that and got Choi to strike out swinging, Lee to fly out to center, and Jeong to strike out to end the game.

Darvish's final line:
2.0 IP, 10 BF, 1 H, 3 BB, 5 SO, 0 GO, 1 FO, 41 pitches (25 strikes)

WBC: Japan at Korea – Japan beats Korea, 6-2; Kurihara to replace Murata?

by on Mar.19, 2009 @ 8:49 pm, under WBC
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Here are the starting line-ups:

JAPAN            KOREA
RF Suzuki        2B Jeong
SS Nakajima      RF Lee, Y
CF Aoki          LF Kim, H
DH Johjima       1B Kim, T
LF Uchikawa      DH Lee, D
1B Murata        3B Lee, B
2B Iwamura       CF Lee, T
C  Abe           C  Kang
3B Kataoka       SS Choi

SP Utsumi        SP Jang, W

I'm a little surprised to see such a huge change in the line-up. I'm guessing Hara is trying to change things up because they're playing against Korea. Batting Johjima higher in the line-up could make sense because he's been one of the hotter hitters on the team right now.

I guess we'll soon see how this all works out for Japan.

As for starting Utsumi... I was a little surprised at first, but then I thought that perhaps Hara wanted to throw someone completely fresh out there, especially since this is now the fourth time the two teams are meeting.

Top of the First
1-2-3 inning. The inning ended a little more quickly than I would have liked, but the players look a little more relaxed.

Bottom of the First
Utsumi gave up a single to start the game. A sac bunt later, a run-scoring double and then a walk. But he bore down and got the next hitter to ground into a double play.

Can't really get on him too hard since this is his first official appearance at the WBC. It's expected that he'll be a little rusty out of the gate.

14 pitches (7 strikes) that inning.

Top of the Second
Japan definitely looks more relaxed out there. The fact that Abe struck out and was still able to laugh and smile in the dugout says a lot.

Luck also appears to be on Japan's side tonight -- a bobble in CF leads to Murata on second, a bad throw by the SS leads to Murata on third and Iwamura on first, and then a little bloop shot manages to drop in front of the RF.

Bottom of the Second
Not a bad second inning for Utsumi. He got the first batter of the inning to ground out. He did give up a single after that, but then struck out Kang and got Choi to ground out. Looks like he's beginning to settle down.

14 pitches (8 strikes) that inning.

Top of the Third
Korea probably wasn't really expecting it (and perhaps not too concerned about it either), but with a lefty on the mound, how can you let someone like Johjima steal second? Fortunately for Korea, it didn't lead to any runs. But if not for a nice play by Jeong, Johjima may have ended up being the third run of the game.

Bottom of the Third
Utsumi started off the inning with a strike out, but then hit the next batter in the back of the helmet. He was visibly concerned about Lee, Y. The next two pitches he threw were balls, but he still managed to get Kim to ground out to first. He was lifted after that (41 pitches; 23 strikes).

Final line for Utsumi:
2.2 IP, 12 BF, 3 H, 1 BB, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 SO, 6 GO, 0 FO, 41 pitches (23 strikes)

Komtasu came in for Utsumi and quickly ended the inning by striking Kim T. out (he's been hitting Japanese pitchers pretty well this WBC).

Top of the Fourth
Even if Japan ends up winning this game, it could still end up being a loss if Murata's injury is as serious as it looked.

Bottom of the Fourth
Nice job by Komatsu to keep Korea from scoring the tying run that inning. He struck out Kang with a runner on third to end the inning.

Top of the Fifth
1-2-3 inning for Japan.

Bottom of the Fifth
Nice 1-2-3 inning for Komatsu, the first for Japan against Korea tonight.

Top of the Sixth
Kamei was thrown out stealing second to end the inning. Korea has done a pretty good job containing Japan's offense so far -- the top three batters are currently 0-for-9 with 2 strike outs.

Bottom of the Sixth

Komatsu was taken out of the game after giving up a line shot that Ichiro managed to track down and catch.

Final line for Komatsu:
2.2 IP, 9 BF, 0 H, 1 BB, 0 R, 0 ER, 5 SO, 1 GO, 2 FO, 39 pitches (27 strikes)

Tanaka came in after that and struck out the next two batters to end the inning.

Top of the Seventh
The first two batters of the inning reached base but Japan failed to push them across the plate.

Nakajima grounded into a double play to end the inning. He is now 0-for-6 since returning to the line-up after being held out of the first 2 games with a high fever.

Bottom of the Seventh
Bum Ho Lee drilled a homer to dead center off Tanaka to start the inning. The next batter reached on a throwing error by Kataoka. Tanaka was then lifted in favor of Yamaguchi. Yamaguchi got the next batter to hit into a double play and was then replaced by Wakui.

Final line for Tanaka:
0.2 IP, 4 BF, 1 H, 0 BB, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 SO, 0 GO, 0 FO, 17 pitches (12 strikes)

Final line for Yamaguchi
0.2 IP, 1 BF, 0 H, 0 BB, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 SO, 2 GO, 0 FO, 2 pitches (1 strikes)

Wakui ended the inning by striking out Choo.

I feel a little bad for Tanaka. He looked pretty down about giving up that home run to Lee.

Top of the Eighth
Aoki got the inning started with a drag bunt single. Inaba followed with a single to right, moving Aoki to third. Ogasawara fell behind in the count 1-2, but managed to hit a single to right, plating Aoki at third. Kamei bunted the runners over and Iwamura singled up the middle to score Inaba. An error allowed Ogasawara to also cross the plate.

Bottom of the Eighth
Nice job by Mahara to settle down after giving up a lead-off single. The runner ended up reaching third (stolen base and a throwing error by Abe) with only 1 out and Mahara kept the door shut with a tapper back to the mound and a chopper to second.

Top of the Ninth
Ichiro finally got a hit with a nice double to center. Aoki drove him in after Nakajima bunted him over to third.

Bottom of the Ninth
Fujikawa replaced Mahara in the ninth.

Final line for Mahara:
1.0 IP, 4 BF, 1 H, 0 BB, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 SO, 2 GO, 0 FO, 18 pitches (11 strikes)

Fujikawa gave up a single, but otherwise pitched a solid ninth.

Final like for Fujikawa:
1.0 IP, 4 BF, 1 H, 0 BB, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 SO, 2 GO, 0 FO, 18 pitches (11 strikes)


Japan may have won the game, but they also lost Murata. Kenta Kurihara (Hiroshima Carp) is said to be on his way to the States to take over his spot on the roster.

As of now, it seems most likely that Matsuzaka will get the start for Japan against the US.

     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9   R  H  E
JPN  0  2  0  0  0  0  0  3  1   6  15 3
KOR  1  0  0  0  0  0  1  0  0   2  6  3

WBC: Japan at Cuba – Post game notes and thoughts about tomorrow

by on Mar.19, 2009 @ 4:07 am, under WBC
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What a great victory for Japan. And what an amazing outing by Iwakuma -- he stuck to his game plan and pitched about as well as any one in his position could pitch.

Some interesting Iwakuma stats:

  • Didn't give up a lead-off runner in any of the 6 innings he tossed. He did, however, give up all 5 of the hits he allowed after getting two outs.
  • Held Cepeda in 0 hits in 3 trips to the plate.
  • Got Cuba to ground out 14 times, out of a possible 18 outs.
  • Was involved in 5 different fielding plays.
  • The most pitches he threw to one batter was against Anderson in the 4th. Result: swinging strike out.
  • Needed only 69 pitches to get through 6 frames, although he was starting to leave some pitches over the plate towards the end.
  • Break-down of pitches: 16 fastballs, 20 sliders, 15 forkballs, 11 shutos, and 7 curveball (this obviously isn't off the MLB site).
  • 4 of the 5 hits came on breaking pitches (slider, forkball, shuto, curve). 3 of the 5 hits also came on the second pitch.

Iwakuma's pitches vs. Cuba

There are a few other things that I think are also worth noting that could end up playing a role tomorrow against Korea.

  1. Ichiro may have turned a corner. You could really tell after his first hit, but his second hit of the game was a solid liner over the centerfielder's head. Hits like that usually are a good indication that a batter is coming around.
  2. Inaba also appears to be coming out of a mini-slump; he hit a solid double to right in the fourth.
  3. Aoki had a VERY big night going 4-for-5 with a run scored and 2 RBI.
  4. Iwamura continued to get on base for Japan, going 1-for-2 with 2 walks and 2 runs scored.
  5. While Nakajima didn't have a hit (0-for-2 with a walk), he did drive in a run with a sac fly in the seventh.
  6. The rest of the lineup really didn't do that well, but they all had solid ABs. For example:
    • Fukudome's 7-pitch at bat in the 3rd.
    • Nakajima's 9-pitch at bat in the 5th.
    • Ogasawara's 8-pitch at bat in the 6th.
    • Johjima's 9-pitch at bat in the 6th.

Something else to consider: Japan tossed 18 scoreless frames against a very powerful Cuban line-up that scored 36 runs in the 4 other games they played. Japanese pitching also scattered 13 hits, including 2 doubles and a triple, struck out 18, and walked only 1 over those 18 frames.

At some point, you have to start chalking up some of these losses to Korea as bad luck. This isn't to take anything away from Korea, because I think they're a tough team, but I just don't see how Korea can continue beating Japan at this point, not after another solid victory against Cuba.

Another thing to consider: Japan has looked infinitely more at ease against Cuba and China. And while they did look fairly relaxed during their first game against Korea, the last two games against Korea have been a whole other story: every player looks like they're pressing.

And that's why it'll be important for Japan to get things going early. That doesn't necessarily mean scoring a run in the first inning, but they definitely need to keep Korea off base (no free passes) and maintain positive forward moving momentum (being agressive on the base paths, making good defensive plays, making the pitchers work).

What needs to happen tomorrow against Korea

Japan just needs to relax and remember that they beat Cuba twice on shut-outs. And hopefully Ichiro's last two ABs really are an indication of him coming out of his awful slump.

My only concern at this point is whom the team will pitch tomorrow against Korea. Matsuzaka, Darvish, and Iwakuma are all unavailable. And since Sugiuchi tossed 32 pitches tonight, he won't be available tomorrow either.

Does that open the door for Wakui to start? Personally, I think it might be interesting to go with Tanaka, but I don't think that'll ever happen.

The Bottomline

Japan needs to stay relaxed and not get too caught up in the rivalry. If they can do that, I think they could eek out a win against Korea.

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WBC: Japan loses second straight game versus Korea

by on Mar.18, 2009 @ 3:27 am, under WBC
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Japan is now 1-2 against Korea in this year's WBC tournament. More and more it looks like Korea is solidifying itself as the team to beat.

So why did Korea win tonight?

, and foremost, Korea was the first team to score. They took advantage of Darvish's wild start and quickly plated 3 runs in the first.

Second, they were aggressive on the base paths. Give credit to Korea's lead-off hitter, Yong-Kyu Lee for singling and then immediately stealing second. Lee set the tone for Korea's offense and made Darvish's wildness stand out even more.

Third, they contained the top of the order. Suzuki, Kataoka, and Aoki went a combined 0-for-10 -- throw in Kawasaki's AB and it's 0-for-11.

This is just inexecusable.

Fourth, Japan kept giving up free passes. Whether or not this was Korea working on Japanese pitchers or Japanese pitchers just not having any control, I'm not sure, but Japan walked 7 pitchers over 8 innings.

THIS is also quite inexcusable.

And of the 35 batters Japan faced, 17 of them started with balls (including an intentional walk). Also of note: 6 different pitchers combined to throw 151 pitches and only 85 were for strikes. Compare that to Korea's 134 pitches and 87 strikes.

And fifth, Japan simply couldn't figure out how to get a hit off Bong. I was hoping that Japan would make better use of the data they culled during their last game against Bong, but apparently they couldn't. Bong continued to baffle Samurai Japan with his sneaky fastball and change.

Of the 16 outs he recorded, 12 were groundouts, 3 were flyouts, and he had 1 strike out.


There were a couple of questionable moves by Hara during the game, but I think this loss goes a lot deeper than that.

I think these games against Korea are really starting to take a toll on Japan. Most of the players seem tired of having to face them. On the other side, you've got Korea constantly getting revved up for these games and looking as if they want it more than Japan. I think emotionally and mentally, Korea has been a lot more prepared than Japan in these last two games.

The question Japan now faces is, what's the pitching situation going to be like against Cuba. And then if they proceed, who goes against Korea?

Iwakuma will most likely get the starting nod against Cuba. Both Matsuzaka and Darvish can't pitch in this round any more. All the relievers that came into the game today are eligible to play against Cuba, but put them in tomorrow and they won't be able to go against Korea.

But then, all Japan really has to do is win tomorrow in order to advance, so it's entirely possible they go all out tomorrow and then just go with what they have left against Korea.

Here's to hoping that Japan rebounds from this loss tonight against Korea and can at least play a competitive game against Cuba tomorrow. The last thing I want to see is Japan go off quietly into the night.

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WBC: Japan at Korea – Japan can’t hit Bong, Korea wins 4-1

by on Mar.17, 2009 @ 10:46 pm, under WBC
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Here are the starting line-ups:

JAPAN            KOREA
RF Suzuki        CF Lee, Y
SS Kataoka       2B Jeong
LF Aoki          LF Kim, H
3B Murata        1B Kim, T
1B Ogasawara     DH Choo
DH Uchikawa      RF Lee, Jin
CF Fukudome      3B Lee, B
C  Johjima       C  Park, Ky
2B Iwamura       SS Park, Ki

SP Darvish       SP Bong

Not really sure what's up with Nakajima. I thought he'd be in the line-up, but Kataoka is in there again. I'll see if I can find more information about his status.

Top of the First
Not exactly the first inning I had in mind, but I'll take it. Japan managed to see 21 pitches (13 strikes) that inning from Bong. But Bong also appears to have all his pitches working. Could be a tough night for Japan's offense.

Bottom of the First
Not a good inning for Darvish. You could tell from his first three pitches that he didn't have his best control. It seemed like it was getting better there toward the end of the inning, but unfortunately 3 runs have also crossed the plate.

Darvish tossed 25 pitches (13 strikes) that inning -- 13 fastballs, 7 sliders, 3 cutters, and 2 curves.

Japan will really need to try and get a run or two back in the top of the second, otherwise Korea could end up winning this game, 3-0 (assuming Darvish manages to settle in).

Top of the Second
Bong had his plus fastball working. Japan continues to struggle against him. Uchikawa had a nice cut against him, but other than that, no one else really has been able to make solid contact on him.

It "feels like" Japan has switched over to defensive mode. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but since Korea has a 3-0 lead, they are going to continue being really aggressive.

Bottom of the Second
Darvish retired the side in order on strike outs -- all three went down swinging. Darvish tossed 15 pitches (10 strikes) in the inning.

Top of the Third
The inning started off nicely enough with a walk. But Ichiro hit into a fielder's choice and then Kataoka grounded into a double play. I know it's early and I know it's Ichiro up to bat, but I think it could have been interesting to see Ichiro drop a bunt (or at least fake dropping a bunt).

And an update on Nakajima: apparently he still has a slight fever and wasn't ready to play. Don't know of that means he won't be available at all for the game tonight though.

Bottom of the Third
Not an altogether bad inning for Darvish, but he's still not attacking the zone. The announcers also beginning to lay into Johjima for his play calling.

16 pitches (9 strikes) for Darvish that inning.

Top of the Fourth
With the HBP and then the infield single, this seemed like a great inning for Japan to plate a runner, but once again, they ground into a double play to end the inning.

So far it looks like Japan has failed miserably in making the necessary adjustments against Bong. And you have to give Bong credit: he's doing a great job keeping Japan off-balance.

Bottom of the Fourth
Darvish has settled in nicely after that rocky first inning. Korea's lead-off hitter, Lee, really set the tone that inning (single, stolen base) -- it's exactly what Japan wanted to do in their first inning.

13 pitches (9 strikes) that inning for Darvish. He's sitting on 69 pitches (41 strikes) overall. 16 more pitches to 85... That's maybe good for one more inning.

Top of the Fifth
Japan finally scores a run against Bong. It wasn't pretty, but at least they get rid of the big fat 0 on the scoreboard.

I don't wanna take anything away from Kataoka, but this game is making me miss Nakajima.

Bong is currently sitting at 78 pitches (49 strikes).

Bottom of the Fifth
Outside of that first inning, Darvish pitched a pretty decent game.

His final line:

5 IP, 20 BF, 4 H, 1 BB, 7 SO, 3 R, 2 ER, 6 GO, 2 FO, 85 pitches (51 strikes)

Top of the Sixth
Bong was taken out of the game after retiring the first batter he faced.

His final line:

5.1 IP, 21 BF, 3 H, 3 BB, 1 SO, 1 R, 1 ER, 12 GO, 3 FO, 79 pitches (50 strikes)

A very nice game for Bong. You really have to give him credit for keeping Japan off-balance.

Bottom of the Sixth
Yamaguchi did pretty well against the two batters he faced, but Watanabe really struggled against the 3 batters he face. He walked the first before finally getting an out on a liner to Iwamura.

Still, they kept Korea from scoring so mission accomplished.

Top of the Seventh
I think Korea has this game won. With Johjima getting thrown out, I think all the forward moving momentum is now going in Korea's direction.

And it doesn't help that Ichiro is still mired in his awful slump (now 0-for-4).

Bottom of the Seventh
The bullpen continues to do a nice job keeping Japan in the game. Watanabe faced two batters and got two outs. Wakui then came in and got the first batter to line out to Kataoka.

Top of the Eighth
Murata managed to bloop another single into right, but unfortunately it came after two outs. Ogasawara struck out swinging to end the inning.

It doesn't look good for Japan right now. The hitters are really pressing.

Bottom of the Eighth
A big question mark: why did Hara go to Iwata with runners on second and third with 2 out? And why Iwata?

Iwata ended up walking both of the batters he faced. Wakui probably could have done, at the very least, the same. I would have left Wakui in for one more batter and then perhaps brought in Tanaka to face Bum Ho Lee.

This isn't anything against Iwata, but I think Tanaka is a more versatile pitcher than Iwata is.

Top of the Ninth
Another very good game for Korea. They did EVERYTHING Japan was supposed to do -- they were aggressive out of the gate, they scored first, and they kept the opposition's offense off-balance.

     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9   R  H  E
JPN  0  0  0  0  1  0  0  0  0   1  7  1
KOR  3  0  0  0  0  0  0  1  x   4  4  0
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WBC: Japan vs. Korea, Take 3

by on Mar.17, 2009 @ 11:59 am, under WBC
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Japan is once again set to take on Korea. This will mark the third time this WBC that the two teams meet.

Here are the pitching match-ups:

Yu Darvish
1-0, 2 G, 1 GS, 5.0 IP, 1 H, 2 BB, 6 SO, 0.60 WHIP

Jung Keun Bong
1-0, 2 G, 1 GS, 8.1 IP, 5 H, 0 BB, 2 SO, 0.60 WHIP

Japan and Korea have split the two games they have played: one was a blow-out win by Japan, the other a nail-biting 1-0 victory by Korea. The pitcher that started the nail-biter for Korea will get the start against Japan.

The first to score
I think the team that scores first will have the psychological advantage over the other.

I also think that...

...if Japan scores first, it most likely means that Ichiro is going to have a good day at the plate. And if Ichiro is on, Japan could end up scoring more than just a couple runs.

...if Korea scores first, it'll most likely mean that Darvish doesn't have his stuff. This isn't meant as any offense to the Korean hitters, it's just that when Darvish is really on, he can be extremely difficult to hit, but when he's off, he can be fairly easy to hit.

Keys for Japan to win

Against Korea, Ichiro's success at the plate will be much more important. Just take a look at how the team reacted in the two prior games: Ichiro led off the first game with a single and Japan scored 3 runs right off the bat. Ichiro grounds out to second in the first game and the next two hitters are retired on 2 pitches a piece. This is a very small sample size, but I don't think you can easily dismiss the psychological effects here.

If Ichiro does continue to struggle, the bottom of the line-up will have to pick up the slack (like it did against Cuba). If both Ichiro AND the bottom of the line-up get shut down, Korea will have shut down Japan's offense.

Japan will need to continue being aggressive on the base-paths. Their game against Cuba is a great example of what the running game can do to help set up scoring situations. Japan is a fast team and they need to take advantage of that. Players like Ichiro, Nakajima, and Aoki need to be thinking about stealing second the minute they step on first. And don't forget the power of the bunt.

Making the pitcher work will also be important for Japan -- the more they work, the more likely they'll make mistakes. Again, I can't really stress how great the Cuba game was for Japan and how they should use that as an example of how they should play every remaining game of the WBC.

Japan more or less pounded the inside corner against Korea during the first two match-ups. I'm not sure if this is real "weakness" or not, but I'd look for Japan to continue pounding the inside corner, at least until Korea proves that it can handle the inside corner. It's also possible that Japan takes the opposite course assuming that Korea will be more prepared to make contact on those inside pitches. I think the first few batters Darvish faces will help decide in which direction Japan pitchers will go.

Also, Darvish is a fairly easy pitcher to read, in terms of whether or not he's going to have a good or bad day. If he's spotting his pitchers early on, he should be good to go for 85 pitches. But early wildness usually isn't a good sign for Darvish, so if he isn't getting his pitches over for strikes, he'll probably end up being on short leash.

Other bits of news

Yu Darvish
Darvish made a 1 inning appearance against Korea during the second match-up and tossed 21 pitches. He also only threw two different types of pitches: the fastball (12) and slider (9).

Part of the reason for this was done to "hide" his other pitches -- there was a very good chance the two clubs would meet again and that Darvish would be making that start. Another reason is that he wasn't quite ready to show off his other pitches because he was still getting use to the WBC ball. After his practice start against the Cubs though, I think it's safe to say that he's feeling pretty good about his grip of the ball.

Shunsuke Watanabe
Like Darvish, Watanabe also made a 1 inning appearance against Korea (during their first match-up). And like Darvish, Watanabe also only threw 2 different types of pitches: the fastball (6) and the change (1). Neither of these pitches are considered Watanabe's bread and butter pitch though; the curve is his go to pitch.

For this reason, and because he has a fairly good record against Korea, Watanabe will probably be involved in the game in some shape or form.

Jung Keun Bong
Based on reports I've seen, Bong has a fastball that dives in to both lefties and righties. Scouting reports from his games in Korea apparently say that he's also primarily a change-up pitcher. But in his start against Japan, he relied quite a bit on his fastball. When asked why, he said that he felt his fastball was moving really well and that he wanted to use it.

Now during the regular season, his fastball is said to usually sits at about 89mph. But in the game against Japan, he actually touched 91-92 a number of times. That 2-3mph difference can be fairly large.

My feelings based on this information is that Japan was looking for a lot more change-ups from Bong but instead ended up seeing more fastballs. And the fastball they did see was much quicker (and had more movement) than they were expecting. But now that they've had a chance to see what he has (Bong faced 19 batters; 8 saw him twice and 1 saw him three times; 69 pitches), he probably won't get away with doing the same things he did in his last start.

To that end, Japan already has a plan: ignore pitches inside (which many were either weakly hit for grounders or pop ups) and focus on the outside pitches.

Korean media
The news program I was just watching mentioned the media blitz in Korea regarding tonight's match-up. There was even one headline that apparently read something like:

You again? We'll beat you.

One paper even supposedly broke down Ichiro's swing and then came down to the conclusion that it's best to pound him with fastballs when you're ahead of the count.

Some other information

Potential Key Offensive Players
(stats from the two games vs each other)

 Kim, H    1-for-4, 2 BB, 2 SO
 Kim, T    3-for-7, 1 R, 3 RBI, 1 2B, 1 HR
 Lee, D    0-for-3, 4 BB
 Lee, Jin  1-for-2
 Ichiro    4-for-9, 3 R
 Iwamura   0-for-5, 2 BB, 3 SO
 Johjima   5-for-7, 3 R, 2 RBI, 1 HR
 Nakajima  4-for-7, 1 BB, 2 R, 2 RBI, 2 2B
March 7, 2009
     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9   R   H   E
JPN  3  5  0  1  2  2  1  x  x   14  14  0
KOR  2  0  0  0  0  0  0  x  x   2   4   1

Japan              IP   H  R  ER  BB  SO  HR  ERA
Matsuzaka (W, 1-0) 4.0  4  2  2   2   1   1   4.50
Watanabe           1.0  0  0  0   0   0   0   0.00
Sugiuchi           1.0  0  0  0   0   0   0   0.00
Iwata              1.0  0  0  0   1   1   0   0.00

Korea              IP   H  R  ER  BB  SO  HR  ERA
Kim, K (L, 0-1)    1.1  7  8  8   2   3   1   54.00
Jong               1.1  0  0  0   0   1   0   0.00
Jang, W            2.1  4  3  2   3   2   0   7.71
Lee, Jae           2.0  3  3  3   0   1   1   13.50
March 9, 2009
     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9   R   H   E
KOR  0  0  0  1  0  0  0  0  0   1   4   0
JPN  0  0  0  0  0  0  0  0  0   0   6   0

Korea              IP   H  R  ER  BB  SO  HR  ERA
Bong (W, 1-0)      5.1  3  0  0   0   2   0   0.00
Jong (H, 1)        1.2  2  0  0   0   3   0   0.00
Ryu  (H, 1)        0.1  1  0  0   0   1   0   0.00
Lim  (S, 1)        1.2  0  0  0   0   1   0   0.00

Japan              IP   H  R  ER  BB  SO  HR  ERA
Iwakuma (L, 0-1)   5.1  2  1  1   3   5   0   1.69
Sugiuchi           0.2  0  0  0   1   1   0   0.00
Mahara             1.0  1  0  0   0   0   0   0.00
Darvish            1.0  1  0  0   1   3   0   0.00
Yamaguchi          0.0  0  0  0   1   0   0   0.00
Fujikawa           1.0  0  0  0   1   0   0   0.00
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WBC: Darvish to start against Korea; Japan TV ratings for Japan vs Cuba; and more…

by on Mar.17, 2009 @ 2:44 am, under WBC
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...Yu Darvish will get the start for Japan while Korea turns to Jung-Keun Bong. Bong pitched 5.1 scoreless inning against Japan during the Pool A Finals game.

...TV ratings for the Japan vs. Cuba game were pretty high despite the early morning hour.

During the 5am hour: 11.6%
From 6am on: 24.6%
(Kanto region)

The "special" re-broadcast of the game in the evening captured a 14.2% mark.

...Samurai Japan merchandising is also selling well in the US. A number of stores at Petco Park ran out of stock of the official Team Japan hat during the Japan / Cuba game. T-shirts have also sold very well -- from the sounds of it, only extra large shirts remain in stock.

...Ichiro Suzuki's comment on facing Korea again:

It's like running into an ex-girlfriend while walking around town. Feels like fate. If we're going to keep meeting like this, we may as well get married.

...Hiroyuki Nakajima should be ready to go for Tuesday's game against Korea. "My fever is gone. I should be ready to go for tomorrow."

...Yu Darvish, Kenji Johjima, Shinnosuke Abe, and Yoshiyuki Ishihara all sat near each other to watch the Korea / Mexico game.

...It's beginning to make some waves in Japan that Hara gave the bunt sign to Ichiro in the third. Hara also gave the bunt sign to Nakajima during the Finals game against Korea and was criticized in some circles for doing so (since it didn't result in any runs). While Ichiro's bunt can't be considered a great success, it did lead to an inning where Japan managed to push 3 runs across the plate.

IMHO, I think the bunt during Cuba was a great move. I also think that the bunt sign against Korea wasn't quite as ill-advised as some seem to think. I do think, however, that Japan wasn't aggressive enough on the base paths against Korea and that they could have easily tried to steal second (Ichiro was on first at the time) instead of relying solely on the bunt. In other words, the bunt sign wasn't the problem, the fact that they weren't more aggressive on the base paths was.

...Samurai Japan batters were told to ignore eveything up high and focus on the low pitches from Cuban starter Aroldis Chapman. Their scouting reports also said that Chapman has a great fastball, but can lack control at times and that he tends to get distracted and frustrated with runner on base.

...Seems Kosuke Fukudome didn't realize the team would be playing some night games. He was under the impression that every game would be a day. Fukudome also didn't realize that the team's practice day would be on the 16th (something that was decided when the team beat Cuba).

Said Fukudome, "I didn't know. Am I the only one? Why did anyone tell me sooner?"

...Comments about the Japan's victory against Cuba from Shigeo Nagashima and pitching coach Hisahi Yamada:

On Hara, the manager of Samurai Japan
It was a great victory for Japan. I was able to watch the game without any worries after the second. Johjima also did a great job calling the game. And the line-up took advantage of scoring opportunities... It was really a great game all around. I'd like to see the team continue playing as one and make their way to Los Angeles.

On Matsuzaka's outing
Matsuzaka really came up big for Japan. Simply magnificent. He made it easier for me to determine who would pitch next. In a game like this, 6 innings like that using only 86 pitches... Not too many pitchers can do that.

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WBC: Video footage from Japan vs. Korea (3/9)

by on Mar.14, 2009 @ 11:20 am, under WBC
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Here's the video I shot from the second game between Japan and Korea. I wish I was a lot closer to the action. I also wish I had some one with me; would have made handling my dSLR camera, video camera, and mobile phone a lot easier.

And I was on the fence about this one, but went ahead and posted it any way.

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WBC: Images from Japan vs. Korea (3/9)

by on Mar.09, 2009 @ 1:24 pm, under WBC
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Here are the images I took from the game last night. Not the greatest, but I suppose they're ok. I also managed to shoot some video, but I haven't had a chance to see what I have yet. I think the video will be far more interesting, if not for the moving images, then for the audio (I don't know if you can tell just how crazy the Dome was via TV broadcast on ESPN2).

View the rest (41 images in all) at Flickr.

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WBC: Korea blanks Japan, 1-0

by on Mar.09, 2009 @ 11:44 am, under WBC
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Just got back in. What a game. As bad as it was that Japan lost, it was a pretty exciting game. It would have been better if Japan had won, but this isn't over yet, so I'm not that sad.

That said, this is a game that really should have been won by Japan. The pitching did a great job keeping the team in the game. And the defense was sparkling through out the entire game. This game was SCREAMING to be won by Japan. But the offense was absolutely putrid.

So what exactly went wrong?

First, I'm not quite sure why Hara decided to change the line-up from the first Japan/Korea game. Hey, it worked and it scored 14 runs, why not go with it again tonight when you have another lefty on the hill again?

But I suppose this is a moot point since it was only a difference between Ogasawara and Inaba DH'ing in the 5 hole. Still, I would have just played the same exact line-up.

Second, the hitters weren't taking enough pitches. Bong, the starting pitcher, managed to last 5.1 innings while throwing only 69 pitches.

Nakajima is a great example of this:

AB  3/7  3/9
1st  3    2     
2nd  8    4
3rd  7    4
4th  3    2
5th  5    -
     26   12

Things got even worse the later innings as players started pressing to get on base. There were even a couple of players that were trying to tie the game in one swing.

This isn't what Japan's offense is about. Japan isn't going to knock any one down with their power. This team is about small ball -- getting on base, moving runners, sacrificing for runs. The minute Japan gets away from that, the minute this offense no longer works.

Third, Ichiro. As I've mentioned in previous posts, Ichiro is the player that sets the tone for the entire offense. It might be going a bit far when I say that the offense looks to Ichiro to see how good a pitcher is, but I think there's something to be said when your "best" hitter can't get the ball out of the infield.

Fourth, the other sleeping bats. Iwamura is now 0-for-9. Ogasawara is 1-for-11. And Inaba, who was red hot during the exhibition games, has cooled off significantly and is now 1-for-8. The hero from the first Korea/Japan game, Murata, also went 0-for-4 in the game (with 2 strike outs). So four different batters accounted for almost half of the outs and none of the hits in the game (0-for-13).

What needs to happen moving forward?

If Japan is going to advance, they need to re-group and re-focus. They need to get back to working the count and making the pitcher work.

Ichiro also needs to figure out how to break out of this funk he's in. Take out the first game against Korea and he's only got 1 hit in 9 trips to the plate. Whether it means he tries to take more pitches (which I don't really see happening), volunteering / demanding that his order in the lineup be changed (this probably won't happen either), or trying to bunt to get on base, Ichiro needs to figure out a way to get on base.

I don't want to put all the resposibility on Ichiro's shoulders, but if he doesn't get going, Japan's exit could be fast and quiet.