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Japan through to WBC finals
Balance of baseball power shifts as Japan overpowers US in World Baseball Classic.
Last Modified: 23 Mar 2009 16:13 GMT

Japan's Munenori Kawasaki slides in safely [EPA]
Defending champions Japan routed the United States 9-4 behind a pair of big innings and the pitching of Daisuke Matsuzaka to move into the championship game of the World Baseball Classic.

Japan, who won the inaugural classic in 2006, will face Olympic champions South Korea in the title game at Dodger Stadium.

The South Koreans eliminated Venezuela 10-2 in the other semi-final on Saturday in Los Angeles.

Historic win

Japan scored five runs in the fourth inning to chase US starter Roy Oswalt, then added three more in the eighth after the Americans had pulled to within 6-4.

"The fact that we won today is something that even for the Japanese baseball world .... will remain in history," Japan manager Tatsunori Hara said after the game on Sunday.

Hara started seven left-handed hitters against the right-handed Oswalt and the strategy worked with five of the six hits off the Houston Astros pitcher coming from them.

"We came up with strategies and were able to come up with variations of the strategies," Hara said.

"I believe that was apparent today. We were able to get the big win."

Boston Red Sox ace Matsuzaka worked four-plus innings, holding the US to five hits and two runs.

The MVP of Japan's 2006 Classic win, Matsuzaka struck out four and walked three to
remain undefeated in the classic.

Monday's meeting will be the fifth between Japan and South Korea at this year's classic with honours even so far at two wins each.

Costly error

In video

Venezuela WBC baseball

A costly error by Baltimore Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts led to Japan's fourth-inning outburst.

The Americans led 2-1 at the time on an opening home run by Roberts and David Wright's third-inning double.

After Atsunori Inaba and Michihiro Ogasaware singled for Japan, however, Roberts muffed a potential double-play grounder by Kosuke Fukudome and Atsunori tied the score.

Kenji Johjima followed with a run-scoring sacrifice fly and Akinori Iwamura made it a 4-2 game with an RBI triple.

Japan scored two more runs on Munenori Kawasaki's RBI single and Hiroyuki Nakajima's double, chasing Oswalt. The right-hander gave up six runs on six hits in three and two-thirds innings.

The Americans, who had defeated Japan in their last four international meetings, climbed back into the contest in the eighth on Mark DeRosa's two-run double.

Japan, however, put the game away in the bottom half of the inning off a throwing error by Derek Jeter, Ichiro Suzuki's RBI single and Nakajima's run-scoring double after two were out.

Source:
Agencies
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