- The Washington Times - Friday, March 20, 2009

SAN DIEGO (AP) - The World Baseball Classic is heading to Hollywood, and what could be more marquee than Daisuke Matsuzaka against Jake Peavy at Dodger Stadium?

That’s the expected pitching matchup for the second semifinal Sunday night in Los Angeles, when defending WBC champion Japan will face hobbled Team USA.

Japan earned that matchup _ and an extra day of rest _ by rallying for three runs in the eighth inning Thursday night to beat South Korea 6-2 and win Pool 1. Japan and South Korea had already clinched semifinal berths.

Korea, held to six hits by seven Japanese pitchers, will play Pool 2 winner Venezuela in the first semifinal on Saturday night.

Although the Japanese haven’t announced Dice-K as the starter, it’s his turn in the rotation and he hasn’t pitched since throwing six brilliant innings in a 6-0 win against Cuba on Sunday. The Boston Red Sox ace is 5-0 in five appearances during two WBCs. He’s 2-0 this year after going 3-0 in leading Japan to the inaugural WBC championship in 2006, when he was named tournament MVP.

Peavy, the San Diego Padres ace who won the 2007 NL Cy Young Award, is scheduled to start for the Americans, who reached the semis with a dramatic 6-5 win over Puerto Rico on Tuesday night.

With the score tied at 2 in the eighth, Japanese manager Tatsunori Hara pinch-hit for his Nos. 4 and 5 hitters, a move that paid off with consecutive singles that keyed a three-run rally.

No. 3 hitter Norichika Aoki reached with a leadoff bunt single against Oh Seung-hwan (0-1) and Atsunori Inaba singled to right-center while pinch-hitting for Kenji Johjima of the Seattle Mariners, giving the Japanese runners on first and third with no outs.

South Korea’s Kim Kwang-hyun came on to face lefty pinch-hitter Michihiro Ogasawara, who singled past second baseman Jeong Keun-woo to bring in Aoki with the go-ahead run. Yoshiyuki Kamei sacrificed and Akinori Iwamura singled in Inaba. Ogasawara came around to score on an error by center fielder Lee Taek-Keun, his second of the game.

Ichiro Suzuki doubled and scored on Aoki’s single in the ninth. He heads into the semis hitting just .212 (7-for-33).

Japan took a 2-1 lead in the second inning on a home run by Seiichi Uchikawa and an RBI single by Yasuyuki Kataoka. Uchikawa’s home run landed near a large Japanese flag hanging on a railing on the balcony on the second level of the Western Metal Supply Co. brick warehouse just beyond the left-field corner.

That lead held up until South Korea’s Lee Bum-ho homered over the 396-foot sign in straightaway center field leading off the seventh inning off reliever Masahiro Tanaka.

South Korea had taken a 1-0 lead on Kim Hyun-soo’s RBI double in the first inning.

Reliever Hideki Wakui (1-0) earned the win by striking out the only batter he faced to end the seventh. Starter Tetsuya Utsumi allowed one run and three hits in 2 2-3 innings.

South Korean starter Jang Won-sam went three innings, allowing one earned run and five hits.

South Korea’s Lee Young-kyu was hit in the back of the helmet by a pitch from Utsumi in the third inning and collapsed in pain. After several minutes on the ground, he got up and was able to walk off the field.

The crowd of 14,832 at 42,000-seat Petco Park chanted and pounded Thunder Stix.

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