03/07/09 9:25 AM ET
Japan tops Korea, advances in Classic
By Wayne Graczyk / MLB.com
Instead, it was a hitters' game as the Japanese stunned the Koreans, 14-2, while amassing 14 hits. The game was called after seven innings because of the mercy rule.
Japan, playing as the visiting team in front of a packed house at Tokyo Dome, jumped on Kim for three runs on four hits in the top of the first inning with the big blow a two-run double down the left-field line off the bat of Seiichi Uchikawa.
Korea answered with a pair of runs off Matsuzaka in the bottom of the inning on a two-run home run blast by first baseman and cleanup hitter Tae Kyun Kim. The shot caromed off a beer advertising billboard high above the left-field bleachers. It would be all the Korean team's offense for the evening.
Kim was knocked out in the top of the second as Japan scored five times. Third baseman and No. 4 batter Shuichi Murata slammed a three-run home run to left, his second homer of the tournament.
Matsuzaka settled down, holding the Koreans scoreless for three innings, and Korea could not get anything going against three Japanese relievers.
Japan added a ninth run in the top of the fourth and two more in the fifth, increasing the lead to 11-2 and prompting the Tokyo Dome scoreboard to flash a message reminding everyone of the tournament rule regarding early termination for large leads when a team is ahead by 10 or more runs after completing the seventh inning.
Catcher Kenji Jojima put Japan over the top and in position for the early victory with a two-run homer in the top of the sixth.
After going 0-for-5 in the tournament's first game against China, Japan leadoff man Ichiro Suzuki broke out of a slump with three hits, including a single in the first that got things going.
"Of course, Ichiro's leadoff hit was huge," said Japan manager Tatsunori Hara, who appeared relived his No. 1 hitter apparently returned to form. "This was a big win for us, especially for the players (such as Uchikawa) who had their first experience in international play."
Matsuzaka said his performance tonight was "not good at all" and indicated he had trouble throwing his breaking ball for strikes. He said the key to his not being bothered by Tae Kyun Kim's mammoth homer was the ability to remain calm.
"I was so happy to get the three-run lead in the first," he said.
Korea now faces China in an elimination game on Sunday night, and Japan, assured of advancement to Round 2, will play the winner in the Pool A finale Monday.
Wayne Graczyk is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.