Japan Beats Netherlands, Thanks To International Rules

SEE ALSO: WBC Schedule

TOKYO—Japan outlasted the Netherlands 8-6 in 11 innings in a grueling game that lasted almost five hours at Tokyo Dome on Sunday night in World Baseball Classic Pool E play.

With the score tied 5-5 after 10 innings, Japan, batting in the top of the 11th as the visiting team, came up with two runs when pinch hitter Seiichi Uchikawa doubled home two runners who had been placed on base before the inning began, per international rules. The Netherlands also began the bottom of the 11th with runners on first and second, as per the rules, but could not score.

Japan took the lead 1-0 in the second on a sacrifice fly by center fielder Shogo Akiyama, but the Dutch team answered in the bottom of the frame when the Orioles’ Jonathan Schoop hit a solo home run off Japan starter Ayumu Ishikawa.

Japan took a 4-1 lead in the top of the third with an RBI single by Shogo Akiyama, followed by a three-run homer from first baseman Sho Nakata, his third of the tournament.

Netherlands tied it again in the third, as the Angels’ Andrelton Simmons had an RBI single, Xander Bogaerts of the Red Sox had a sac fly and Wladimir Balentin homered off the the left field foul pole with a man on to tie it at 5-5.

Seiji Kobayashi put Japan ahead once more in the fifth with an RBI single, and the score remained 6-5 until Schoop’s single with two outs scored Bogaerts to send the game into extra innings.

After neither team scored in the 10th, tournament officials and umpires explained the tie-breaking rule to managers Hiroki Kokubo of Japan and Hensley Meulens of the Netherlands. Runners were placed on first and second base as the 11th inning began, and Kokubo ordered batter Seiya Suzuki to bunt. His sacrifice was successful, moving the runners to second and third with one out.

Nakata followed with a base hit to left that sent both runners home to give Japan the lead again at 8-6. Nakata had five RBIs for the night.

“After Suzuki’s bunt, I was determined to get a hit with the runners in scoring position,” Nakata said.

“We fought hard until the end,” said Japanese manager Kokubo, whose club is now 4-0. “The Netherlands team is tough, but we got great hitting from Nakata, and our catcher, Kobayashi, got a key hit and handled our pitchers well.”

The bottom of the 11th began with Dutch runners on first and second as well, but Japanese reliever Kazuhisa Makita shut down the Netherlands hitters and earned the victory. Netherlands righthander Tom Stuifbergen took the loss.

About the unusual 11th inning situation, Makita said, “It was weird working with runners on base before the inning started.”

The game, played before a crowd of 44,326, lasted four hours and 46 minutes and ended at 11:56 p.m. in Japan. The stadium scoreboard message screen reminded spectators younger than 18 years of age to leave the Tokyo Dome before midnight to comply with a juvenile safety law, and many fans scrambled to leave the stadium to catch the last trains home.

“The Japanese team had some hot hitters, and we just could not get the job done,” Meulens said.

Pool E action resumes on Monday with 4-0 Israel playing the Netherlands. Japan plays Cuba on Tuesday, and the Asia rounds are scheduled to conclude on Wednesday with Cuba playing the Netherlands and Japan facing Israel.

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