- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 15, 2009

SAN DIEGO (AP) - Dice-K is more than OK with the World Baseball Classic _ and Petco Park.

Pitching in the same ballpark where he led Japan to the inaugural WBC title three years ago, Boston Red Sox ace Daisuke Matsuzaka was brilliant in silencing Cuba’s previously undefeated big boppers, leading Japan to a 6-0 win in the second round on Sunday.

Matsuzaka improved to 5-0 in five WBC starts by holding Cuba to five singles in six innings while striking out eight and walking none. The right-hander with the slow-motion windup has two wins in this edition of the WBC and was the MVP in 2006, when he went 3-0. Matsuzaka beat Cuba 10-6 at spacious Petco Park in the championship game three years ago, triggering a celebration that was worthy of a World Series victory.

Cuba came in with 11 home runs, all hit at high altitude in Mexico City in the first round, when it went 3-0 to win Pool B. Seven of Cuba’s eight hits Sunday were singles. Frederich Cepeda had three hits, including a double.

Matsuzaka got a nice ovation from Japanese fans and handshakes from teammates as he approached the dugout after striking out Yosvani Peraza to end the sixth. He threw 86 pitches. There’s an 85-pitch limit in the second round, unless a pitcher needs more to complete a batter’s plate appearance.

It was Japan’s second shutout in this WBC. It beat China 4-0 in the first-round opener, with Yu Darvish getting the win.

Dice-K also won at Petco Park with the Red Sox in 2007, beating Greg Maddux and the San Diego Padres 2-1.

Cuba will play an elimination game Monday night against the loser of Sunday night’s matchup between Mexico and South Korea. Japan will play Tuesday night against the Mexico-South Korea winner for a spot in the WBC semifinals next weekend in Los Angeles.

While Dice-K was cooling off the Cuban bats, the Japanese got off to a shaky start offensively, getting two runners thrown out on the basepaths in the second inning.

They broke through in the third, though, scoring three runs on five hits and chasing Cuban starter Aroldis Chapman. The first four Japanese batters reached against Chapman, although the pitcher fielded Ichiro Suzuki’s bunt and forced Kenji Johjima at third.

Yasuyuki Kataoka’s single loaded the bases and chased Chapman. Akinori Iwamura scored on Norberto Gonzalez’s wild pitch, Norichika Aoki singled in Suzuki, and Shuichi Murata hit a sacrifice fly.

Suzuki drove in a run with a grounder in the fourth and Seiichi Uchikawa hit an RBI single in the fifth. Murata singled home a run in the ninth.

Chapman (0-1) allowed three runs and three hits in 2 1-3 innings, walked three and struck out one.

The Cubans didn’t like plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt’s strike zone. After Wendelstedt called a ball with Iwamura batting in the fourth inning, the umpire turned toward the Cuban dugout and made a hand gesture as if telling someone to be quiet. One of the Cuban coaches made a motion back.

Petco Park was less than half full with an announced crowd of 20,179.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide