Chinese Taipei gave Japan all they could handle, but the host country eked out a victory in extra innings.
Chinese Taipei was one strike away from an upset win over the host Japan, but an RBI single by Hirokazu Ibata tied the game in the top of the ninth and a sacrifice fly in the tenth by Sho Nakata gave Japan a 4-3 ten inning victory over Chinese Taipei in the second round of the World Baseball Classic.
Japan was held scoreless for six innings by Chinese Taipei starter Chien-Ming Wang, who is making a strong bid for the All-Tournament Team as well as a major league contract. Wang gave up six hits while walking one and striking out one.
Meanwhile, Chinese Taipei scored a run in the third inning when Japanese starter Atsushi Nohmi walked in a run. Nohmi was then pulled for 2012 Sawamura Award (Japan's Cy Young Award) winner Tadashi Settsu. Settsu got Japan out of the bases-loaded jam in the third, but he gave up another run in the fifth when he gave up a one-out double to Astros outfielder Che-Hsuan Lin and an RBI single to first baseman Cheng-Min Peng.
The score stayed that way until the eighth inning when Japan led off the inning with two singles off of former major league all-star Hung-Chuh Kuo. Kuo was pulled for Ching-Ming Wang (not to be confused with Chien-Ming) who gave up RBI singles to catcher Shinnosuke Abe and shortstop Hayako Sakamoto to tie the game.
Chinese Taipei retook the lead in the bottom of the inning when Szu-Chi Chou singled off of 2011 Sawamura Award winner Masahiro Tanaka. After that, Chinese Taipei had the bases-loaded with no one out, but failed to tack on an insurance run. It would cost them.
Former Cubs farmhand Hung-Wen Chen took the mound in the top of the ninth. Chen allowed a one-out walk to Takashi Toritani, who stole second with two outs. (A gutsy call with two out in the ninth. Toritani just barely slid under a perfect throw to second.) On a 2-2 count, Hirokazu Ibata singled home Toritani to tie the game.
After Chinese Taipei failed to score in the bottom of the ninth, Japan led off the top of the tenth with a single by Ryoji Aikawa and a walk to Yoshio Itoi. A sacrifice bunt and a sac fly later, Japan had a 4-3 lead.
Japan sent Toshiya Sugiuchi to the mound in the bottom of the tenth, but he got in a jam when he gave up a pair of one out singles. With the winning run on first, third baseman Yung-Chi Chen grounded into a game-ending double play.
The win for Japan sets up a Saturday matchup with the Netherlands, where the winner will be assured a trip to San Francisco. The loser takes on Cuba later today (early tomorrow morning in the United States), facing elimination.
Be sure to read my previous WBC entry and vote on the cap poll!