World Baseball Classic, Pool one, Round two: Cuba – Japan 0-6
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Daisuke Matsuzaka led the Japanese team to a 6-0 shutout over Cuba in the opener of Pool one at the 2009 World Baseball Classic. It was the first loss for the Cuban team, which now needs desperately a victory on Monday to stay alive, facing the loser of the Korea-Mexico game.
“Dice-K” Matsuzaka (W 1-0), MVP of the 2006 World Baseball Classic, allowed just five hits, none for extra bases, through six innings. He struck out eight. Hisashi Iwakuma, Takahiro Mahara and Kyuji Fujikawa each gave up a hit in one inning of relief, but kept the Cuban zero on the board, closing out the shutout.
Behind the strong pitching effort, the Japanese offense had a better approach for the spacious PETCO Park in San Diego. They loaded the bases with one out against Cuban starter Aroldis Chapman, chasing him from the game early. Norberto Gonzalez replaced him, but promptly forced in Akinori Iwamura with a wild pitch past catcher Ariel Pestano for the first run by Team Nippon. Norichika Aoki and Shuichi Murata followed with a RBI single and a sac fly to make it 3-0.
A RBI force out and two RBI singles by Ichiro Suzuki, Seiichi Uchikawa and Murata drove in insurance runs and doubled the gap until the end of the game, sealing the 6-0 shutout. Cuba, which made some fine defensive plays, never got things going offensively. The top of their batting order with Yoennis Cespedes, Michel Enriquez and Frederich Cepeda was a combined six-for-twelve with just two strikeouts, but the rest of the lineup failed to drive them in, going 2-21 with ten K’s.
Hard-throwing lefty Chapman (L 0-1) lit up the radar gun in San Diego, but had a few control issues and took the loss. He induced three hits, three runs and three walks, striking out just one in 2 1/3 innings. The southpaw picked off Uchikawa and Michihiro Ogasawara in the second inning.