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Korea to Face Japan for 4th Time in WBC

Posted March. 20, 2009 09:25,   


PETCO Park in San Diego was foggy yesterday, when Japan faced Cuba for the semifinal berth in the second World Baseball Classic.

Japanese manager Tatsunori Hara looked nervous while watching his players practice before the game. Having lost to Korea 4-1 the day before, defending champion Japan was on the verge of elimination.

Hara’s hard look did not last long. In the fourth inning, Cuban center fielder Yoennis Cespedes dropped a fly ball hit by Michihiro Ogasawara, allowing two runs to score.

The 5-0 victory set up a fourth game in this year’s tournament between Korea and Japan today at 10 a.m. Korean Standard Time.

Hara looked indifferent over today’s game, saying Japan and Korea face off frequently because of their international level. On how he will deal with Korea, he simply said, “I will think about tomorrow’s game tomorrow.”

Starting pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma allowed five hits in six shutout innings. In the tournament, Korea is the only team to score on Japan.

Ichiro Suzuki also broke out of a slump. He got his first hit in 13 at-bats in the seventh and hit a triple in the ninth. When Ichiro is alive and kicking, Japan is a tough team to beat.

Both Korea and Japan announced that left-handed pitchers will start today’s game.

With the loss, Cuba ended its 58-year streak of advancing to the finals of 40 international championships. Over the period, it went 33-7, losing to Japan in the first WBC final three years ago and to Korea in last year’s Beijing Olympics.

Venezuela beat the United States 10-6 to top Pool 2.

If Korea claims Group 1 by beating Japan today, it will face the United States Monday. A loss will put Korea against Venezuela for a ticket to the final.