World Baseball Classic Roundup: Japan Blows Out Korea, Taiwan Takes Down Italy

Image credit: Kensuke Kondoh (Getty Images)

Japan 13, South Korea 4

What Happened: Euiji Yang’s two-run home run in the third inning helped Korea take an early 3-0 lead, but Kensuke Kondoh’s double and Masataka Yoshida‘s single helped Japan score four runs in its half of the third. Kondoh added a home run in the fifth and Yoshida’s sacrifice fly scored Shohei Ohtani. Kun-Woo Park’s home run in the sixth cut the lead to two, but Japan blew the game open in the sixth inning. Japan scored five runs in the inning on an RBI walk by Kondoh, an Ohtani single, a Murakami sacrifice fly and a two-run Yoshida single.

Stars of the Game: Kondoh has stepped into Japan’s starting lineup because of Seiya Suzuki‘s injury that forced him to withdraw from the tournament. He went 2-for-3 with three runs scored, two walks, a double, a home run and three RBIs. Ohtani went 2-for-3 with a double, two walks and two runs scored. Lars Nootbaar had two hits, an RBI and two runs scored and also had this exceptional catch:

Prospect of Note: KBO star Jung Hoo Lee went 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI.

What It Means: Japan is right on track to advance out of Pool B as expected. At 2-0 with games against Australia and the Czech Republic remaining, the team is favored to go 4-0, but even if it splits the next two games, it would likely advance. Korea’s chances of advancing out of pool play are now quite grim. Having lost to Australia and Japan, even if it wins its last two games (as expected) against China and the Czech Republic, it needs the loser of Australia-Japan to lose an additional game somewhere else and then hope it can improve its rather awful runs allowed ratio to win the three-way tiebreaker for the second spot out of pool play. Currently, Korea has the worst runs allowed ratio in the pool.

Taiwan 11, Italy 7 

What Happened: Taiwan defeated Italy in a wild thriller that saw five lead changes. The biggest moment in the game happened when David Fletcher misplayed a ball to short that saw Chieh-Hsien Chen cross the plate with what would prove to be the winning run in the bottom of the seventh. The following inning Taiwan catcher Kungkuan Giljegiljaw connected for a one-out, three-run home run to center field that proved to be the nail in the coffin that sealed the victory for the Taiwanese team in front of a raucous home crowd. 

Stars of the Game: Chen went 3-for-3 with a walk and three runs scored. Two other Taiwanese hitters collected two hits, as Yu Chang went 2-for-4 with a home run, a double, a walk, three runs scored and two RBIs. Nien-Ting Wu collected two hits and a walk, crossing the plate twice. Designated hitter Li Lin also collected two hits. 

Prospect of Note: The Brewers’ Sal Frelick went 1-for-4 with a double and a walk. He drove in two to give Italy a 6-5 lead in the top of the fourth inning. 

What it Means: With Taiwan pulling to a record of 1-1 with the victory, Pool A is now wide open. Cuba, Italy, Panama and Taiwan are now all even at 1-1 leading to a battle for the final spot to qualify for the quarterfinal round. The Netherlands stands alone at 2-0 and could clinch a place in the second round with a victory over Taiwan in Saturday’s morning showdown at 6 a.m. EST. The final few days of Pool A play are set to be do or die for everyone outside of The Netherlands. 

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