Kenta Maeda shines as Japan downs China in WBC for second win
Fukuoka, Japan (4E Sports) – Kenta Maeda allowed just one hit in five scoreless innings as Japan hit four RBI in the fourth frame en route to a 5-2 win over China in the World Baseball Classic at Yafuoku Dome.
Maeda bounced back from a subpar performance against Australia in an exhibition game, fanning six batters while Yoshio Itoi added a three-run double to lead Japan to its second victory in as many games.
“I had a week since the last outing, so I was able to make adjustments,” Maeda said.
The Japanese will have a two-day rest before facing Cuba Wednesday for the top spot in Group A.
“We’re in good shape,” Japan manager Koji Yamamoto said. “I wish we could’ve scored a little earlier, but I’m satisfied.”
Chinese starter Xia Luo held Japan to just one run and had two strikeouts over 3 2/3 innings but was pulled out after reaching the first-round’s 65-pitch limit.
“He was moving the ball around and he was changing speeds,” China manager Jon McClaren said. “He was getting ahead of them, and when you get ahead, I don’t care what level you are.”
Japan capitalized on Luo’s exit as Seiichi Uchikawa welcomed reliever Dawei Zhu with an RBI single before Itoi added a three-run double.
Tetsuya Utsumi, Hideaki Wakui and Hirokazu Sawamura were perfect over the sixth, seventh and eighth innings, combining to strike out six over that span.
Tetsuya Yamaguchi ran into trouble in the ninth, giving up two runs while allowing a pair of singles and throwing two wild pitches. However, he struck out Wei Dong to end the game.
Meanwhile, ace Ismel Jimenez allowed four hits and had six strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings to lead Cuba past Brazil, 5-2, for its first win in Group A.
“First of all, I’m happy because we won,” Jimenez said through a translator. “Everyone [felt] strongly that we wanted to win, and we did.”
Shortstop Barbaro Arruebarruena finished 2-for-4 with a pair of RBIs while Guillermo Heredia, Alexei Bell and Raul Gonzalez each had a run-scoring single for the Cubans, who gun for their second win against China later Monday.
In Group B, Chinese-Taipei captured its second win after beating the Netherlands, 8-3, in Taichung, Taiwan.
Chinese Taipei will face Korea (0-1) while the Netherlands (1-1) will play Australia (0-1). The top-two teams from the group will advance to Tokyo to play along with Pool A’s top two in the second round beginning March 6.