Not a big day for the WBC, today, with only one seeding game, and most Americans focused on some big college sports event for whatever reason.
Today's Game: Korea v. Japan, 9:00 PM
Ok, so this is the fourth game between Korea and Japan this classic. As it's fairly meaningless, does anyone care anymore? The loser has to play the mighty Venezuelans, but the winner gets an easy berth to the final game against the weak US? Maybe not so much. In any case, the Japanese will have Matsuzaka ready for their semi-final game and instead start Tetsuya Utsumi, against Korea's Won-Sam Jang. Utsumi pitches for the Yomiuri Giants, and has been one of the top pitchers in the Central League of NPB for the last three years. Jang was the KBO's ROY runner-up in 2006, and his overall record in the 2008 Olympics was 12 1/3 innings, 0 ER, 11 K - to be fair, most of that was a complete game shut out against the Netherlands. In any case, while pride is on the line, neither team wants to overkill with the finals coming up. Also, evidently the Koreans claimed PETCO's pitchers moung by planting a flag on it. ..so it's theirs now, right?
Pool 1: Japan 5 Cuba 0
Japan shuts Cuba out again, and Cuba exits the classic uncharacteristically early. Last night, Cuba still just couldn't put anything together offensively, with only two extra-base hits, and five total. However, after three scoreless innings, Japan capitalized on a Cespedes error to score two runs, slowly adding some insurance in later innings. Norichika Aoki was really the player who 'got things done' for the Japanese, with four hits and 2 RBI. Ichiro looked more like himself last night after a pretty lackluster performance, hitting 2-5 with a triple. Hirashi Iwakuma pitched six full innings, and was still only at 69 pitches at the end of them. But Toshiya Sugiushi came in for three perfect innings to end the game, with four strike outs. Pretty damn impressive.
Pool 2: Venezuela 10 USA 6
This time, the defensive scapegoat (and rightfully so) is Adam Dunn, who was not good at first base, and made an error in the second inning which opened the door for Venezuela to score six runs in that frame. I foretell trying times in the nation's capital this spring. Jeremy Guthrie did not go six innings last night, and, although Dunn's error was responsible for four of the six runs allowed by Guthrie, he certainly wasn't pitching strongly, and exited after 1 2/3 innings. The USA battled back, and looked to make it a close game in the top of the sixth, but the Venezuelans came back in the bottom of that inning and scored three runs off LaTroy Hawkins. The Venzuelans did a great job offensively - six of their 9 starting batters had multiple hits. The best hitter for the day on the US side was Mark DeRosa, who had three hits, one of them a home run. The Venezuelans brought K-Rod in to close, again, though only for one inning, and if I were the mets, I would be slightly displeased.