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Japan repeats in WBC

Ichiro’s two RBIs in the 10th inning lifts Japan over Korea in finals

Posted: March 24, 2009 2:15 a.m.
Updated: March 24, 2009 4:54 a.m.
LOS ANGELES - The tournament is called a classic, yet it's still in its infancy.

Baseball's biggest international star made it grow up Monday night at Dodger Stadium.

After Japan surrendered a lead in the ninth inning of the World Baseball Classic championship game, Ichiro Suzuki saved the Japanese with a two-RBI single in the top of the 10th inning and led his team to a 5-3 victory.

The classic belongs to the Japanese, as they previously won the inaugural event in 2006.

The 2009 championship wasn't a gimme.

Japanese hard-throwing right-hander Yu Darvish came into close the game in the ninth, armed with a 3-2 lead, but the normally stingy pitcher lost his control, walking a pair of batters, then allowing a single to Bum Ho Lee, tying the game at 3-3.

But with two out and runners on second and third in the 10th, Korea pitcher Chang Yong Lim quickly got ahead in the count on Suzuki.

The Seattle Mariners outfielder had struggled at points of the WBC, but fought off four of Lim's two-strike offerings before lining a single to center field.

Darvish then closed out the game in the bottom of the 10th inning, ending it by striking out Jin Young Lee.

Japan showed Monday that it didn't matter how many men reach base, but how many round the bases.

The two-time WBC champions left 14 men on base but through a small-ball sort of attrition, they stayed ahead of Korea for most of the game.

Michihiro Ogasawara's RBI-single in the third inning off Korean starter Jungkeun Bong gave Japan a 1-0 lead.

A single by Hiroyuki Nakajima in the seventh put Japan up 2-1, then it would tack onto the lead with an RBI-sacrifice fly by Akinori Iwamura in the eighth.

Japan was strong on the mound early as starter Hisashi Iwakuma retired the first 11 batters he faced.

Iwakuma went 7 2/3 innings, allowing four hits and two earned runs, striking out six and walking two.

He surrendered a home run to Shin Soo Choo in the fifth inning, tying the game at 1-1.

With Japan leading 3-1 in the bottom of the eighth, Iwakuma surrendered a leadoff double to Bum Ho Lee.

Lee would later score on a sacrifice fly by Dae Ho Lee to cut Japan's lead to 3-2.

Suzuki was 4-for-6 in the game.

His bunt single in the seventh inning led to Nakajima's seventh-inning RBI single.

Daisuke Matsuzaka, who didn't pitch Monday, was named the WBC Most Valuable Player for the second straight tournament.

He was 3-0 with a 2.45 ERA.


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