World Baseball Classic Final: Korea – Japan 3-5 (10)
JPN 001 000 110 2 5 15 0 KOR 000 010 011 0 3 5 1
Ichiro Suzuki’s 2-Run-Single in the tenth frame helped Japan to beat Korea 5-3 and to defend their World Baseball Classic title in a thrilling final on Monday evening at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. The Olympic Champion had come back twice to erase deficits in the game, but they had no answer left for the heroics of the Seattle Mariners outfielder.
Japan took an early 1-0 lead in the third, when Michihiro Ogasawara brought home Hiroyuki Nakajima with a groundball single to right field. Shin-Soo Choo evened the score with a solo shot in the fifth, setting up a thrilling ending to a close game.
Team Nippon regained the lead in the seventh with a RBI single by Nakajima. They added another run in the top of the eighth through a sac fly by Akinori Iwamura. However Korea didn’t give up. Dae Ho Lee cut the deficit to a run with a sac fly in the eighth, before Bum Ho Lee tied the contest with a two-out RBI single to left field in the ninth.
But it was not enough. Japan had something left. Seiichi Uchikawa and Akinori Iwamura reached on singles in the tenth, advancing to second and third with two outs. Ichiro Suzuki stepped to the plate and hit the eighth pitch of Chang Yong Lim (L 0-1) into center field to drive in both runners and to put Japan back in front.
And this time closer Yu Darvish (BS 1, W 1-0), who came into the game at the beginning of the ninth, held on to the lead with a scoreless frame. Hisashi Iwakuma (JPN) started and allowed four hits, two runs and two walks in 7 2/3 innings, striking out six. Jung Keun Bong (KOR) on the opposing side couldn’t repeat his magic from the first two wins over Japan during the WBC. He gave up six hits, an unearned run and three base on balls in four-plus innings.
The dramatic game between two rivals was a fitting ending for an exciting 2009 World Baseball Classic with the same winner as three years ago. The two best teams of the tournament had reached the finals and they showed why. Good pitching, spectacular defense and timely hitting led to the success of the two Asian Baseball heavyweights, showing off their skills in the final.
IBAF president Dr. Harvey Schiller, MLB commissioner Bud Selig and the head of the MLBPA Donald Fehr handed out the trophy and the medals for the two teams. Japanese starting pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka once again received the MVP award for the WBC, after having a 3-0 record with an ERA of 1.69 in this year’s event. He now is 6-0 with an ERA of 1.95 in the two Classics combined. The next World Baseball Classic is scheduled for 2013, perhaps with more than 16 participating teams.