Friday, March 10, 2017

Japan cruises past China, goes 3-0 in Pool B

Japan prepared for the second round of the World Baseball Classic with an easy 7-1 win over China in Pool B's final first-round game Friday at Tokyo Dome.
Catcher Seiji Kobayashi and first baseman Sho Nakata belted two-run homers for Japan, which had already clinched first place in Pool B and a spot in the second round. Japan will open second-round play against the Netherlands on Sunday (6 a.m. ET) at Tokyo Dome.
Japan won all three of its first-round games in impressive fashion. The hosts beat Cuba, 11-6, and got by Australia, 4-1, before beating China. Third baseman Nobuhiro Matsuda, who had four hits and four RBIs against Cuba, was Japan's leading hitter in the first round.
China finished pool play winless.
Retired Major Leaguer Bruce Chen, who was expected to pitch in relief for China, got sick and was unable to come to Tokyo Dome. Chen, who works in the Indians' front office, pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings against Australia and said this will be his last tournament.
Japan power: Going into the tournament, Japan didn't expect to build its offense on home runs. But home runs have been a big part of Japan's game all week. Kobayashi and Nakata's home runs Friday gave Japan six in the three games of the first round. Nakata's home run was the second of the tournament. Yoshitomo Tsutsugoh has also homered twice.
China scores: Manager John McLaren was openly critical of his team's performance in Thursday's 11-0 loss to Australia. While the Chinese pitching wasn't good against Japan, China did show some life at the plate. Third baseman Ray Chang, playing his last game before joining MLB to help develop baseball in China, singled home Fujia Chu in the third inning to give China a run.
Getting ready: Japan had already qualified for the second round, but manager Hiroki Kokubo elected to play almost all of his regulars against China to get them ready for Sunday's second-round opener against the Netherlands. One player who did get the night off was Astros outfielder Norichika Aoki, who was one of the few Japan starters who worked out Thursday.
Fujinami shows off: Major League scouts in attendance at Tokyo Dome had been waiting to see 22-year-old Japan right-hander Shintaro Fujinami, who didn't appear in the first two games. Fujinami entered Friday's game in the fourth inning and showed off a fastball that clocked in the mid-90s on the radar gun. Over two scoreless innings, he fanned four batters, allowed one walk and hit a batter.
Japan: The Japanese will work out Saturday in preparation for their second-round opener against the Netherlands, 6 a.m. ET on Sunday at Tokyo Dome.

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