TOKYO—Japan returned to the World Baseball Classic semifinals with an 8-3 win over upstart Israel at the Tokyo Dome on Wednesday night.
Japan (6-0) will next face the Pool F runner-up on March 21 in Los Angeles. Japan lost in 2013 in the semifinals to Puerto Rico, one of four teams competing in Pool F to move on, along with the United States, Venezuela and defending champion Dominican Republic.
“We won all six of our games because our players gave it all we had, and now we are going to the U.S.,” Japan manager Hiroki Kokubo said.
The Netherlands (2-1) also benefited from Japan’s win, moving on to the semifinals as well. The Dutch will play the Pool F winner on March 20 at Dodger Stadium. Israel (1-2) and Cuba (0-3) were eliminated.
As the Dutch team players watched from their hotel in Tokyo, Japan righthander Kodai Senga and Israel righty Josh Zeid were matched in a scoreless tie for the first five innings.
“I achieved my goal of putting up zeroes, and I look forward to pitching again in Los Angeles,” Senga said.
Samurai slugger Yoshitomo Tsutsugoh broke the deadlock with a leadoff home run off Dylan Axelrod in the bottom of the sixth. It was the cleanup hitter’s third homer of the tournament. Japan would send 11 batters to the plate and go on to score four more times that inning to take a 5-0 lead.
Japan added three more runs in the eighth, two on a double by Nori Aoki, the only major leaguer on the Japanese squad, to make it 8-0 before the Israel bats finally woke up to produce three runs in the top of the ninth on an RBI single by DH Ike Davis and a two-run double by catcher Ryan Lavarnway.
Japan’s second pitcher, righty Yoshihisa Hirano, was the winning pitcher while Axelrod took the loss in the game played before a crowd of 43,179.
“(Senga) pitched well, and it is just too bad we could not score earlier tonight while he was still in the game. He deserved to get a victory,” Kokubo said.
For Israel, the loss meant the end of a surprising run that began so promisingly when manager Jerry Weinstein’s club won all three of its games in Pool A in South Korea, last week. Israel also won its first game in Japan in Pool E, beating Cuba.
“We are disappointed we lost and will not be moving on to the next round,” Weinsein said. “But we lost to a couple of really good teams.”
Netherlands slugger Wladimir Balentien was named the MVP of Pool E. The star in Japan with the Tokyo Yakult Swallows hit .615 with three home runs and 10 RBIs.