By Wayne Graczyk
TOKYO— It was supposed to be a pitchers’ game, but the hitters got in the way as Team Japan put on an awesome offensive display in defeating rival Korea 14-2 in Game 4 of the 2009 World Baseball Classic, Pool A, Asia Round, at Tokyo Dome on Saturday night.
In fact, the game was called after seven innings by the early termination rule for large leads when a team is ahead by 10 or more runs after completing the seventh. Japan banged out 14 hits, including a pair of homers, and built up a lead of 8-2 in the second inning.
Japan ace Daisuke Matsuzaka started against Korea’s 20-year-old lefty Kwang Hyun Kim, but the pitchers’ duel was not there. Japan played as the visiting team, and leadoff man Ichiro Suzuki began the onslaught with a single for his first hit of the tournament and first of three on the night.
Playing as the visiting team in front of a capacity crowd of 45,640, Japan scored three runs in the first and five in the second, with the big blow a three-run homer off the bat of third baseman Shuichi Murata.
Kim left the mound after Murata’s blast, and Matsuzaka went on to throw three scoreless innings after giving up a tape-measure home run to Korean first baseman and cleanup hitter Tae Kyun Kim. The shot dented a beer ad on a billboard high above the left field bleachers, but that would be the extent of Korea’s offense for the game.
Japan increased its lead to 11-2 by the fifth inning, and the Tokyo Dome crowd was informed about the possibility of the “mercy” rule being invoked if Japan’s lead went to 10 runs.
A two-run homer by catcher Kenji Johjima made it 13-2 in the sixth, and Japan scored one more in the seventh and increased the lead to 12 runs. The game ended after Korea made three outs in the bottom of the seventh.
Japan manager Tatsunori Hara said his team was determined to strike right away. “Ichiro’s leadoff hit was huge. This was a big win for us, especially for the players (such as first baseman Seiichi Uchikawa) who were experiencing international play for the first time,” said Hara.
Korea manager In Sik Kim tried to minimize the defeat, saying, “A 14-2 loss is the same as losing 1-0. A loss is a loss. We have to forget about it and concentrate on (Sunday) night’s game (against China). We must win, or we will have no game on Monday. We will be out of the tournament.”
Korea now faces China in that elimination game on Sunday night, and Japan, having clinched advancement to Round 2 of the Classic, will play the winner in the Asia Round-concluding Game 6 on Monday.