FUKUOKA, Japan—Brazil nearly pulled off another upset, but Japan rallied for three runs in the top of the eighth inning to win 5-3 in the World Baseball Classic opener in the Fukuoka pool.
Brazil jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first and caught a break when Japanese starter Masahiro Tanaka, one of the main attractions for scouts in the WBC, was pulled after only two innings and 26 pitches. Tanaka, 24, allowed one run (it was unearned) with four hits, no walks and no strikeouts.
“His first outing was rough,” said Japan manager Koji Yamamoto through an interpreter. “Today in his second inning, although he was facing (Brazil’s) seventh and eighth hitters, it was not solid pitching, so that’s why we changed (pitchers).”
Brazil third baseman Leonardo Reginatto went 3-for-4 with two doubles and drive in two runs, including a fifth-inning double into the left-center field gap to give Brazil a 3-2 lead.
Brazil held on to that edge until the eighth inning, when Japan first baseman Hirokazu Ibata tied the game with an RBI single to right field. Shunnosuke Abe, the MVP of Japan’s Central League last year who was out of the starting lineup due to a knee injury, lined a rocket off the glove of the diving second baseman, who got the force out at second base but scored center fielder Hisayoshi Chono from third base to make it 4-3. Third baseman Nobuhiro Matsuda made it 5-3 with a line drive single to center field.