Monday, March 23, 2009

Ichiro Leads Japan to 2009 WBC Title

Japan has won its second consecutive World Baseball Classic title with a 5-3 victory over Korea in 10 innings at Dodger Stadium.

Ichiro Suzuki went 4 for 6 in the game with three singles and a double. His two run single in the top of the 10th inning which broke a 3-3 tie proved to be the deciding factor. ESPN announcers Joe Morgan and Steve Phillips both questioned Korea's decision to pitch to Ichiro with first base open.

Ichiro kept fouling off pitch after pitch from Korean reliever Chang Yong Lim. On the tenth pitch of the at bat, Ichiro hit a single up the middle to score Seiichi Uchikawa and Tampa Bay Rays second baseman Akinori Iwamura.

Going into this game, Ichiro had struggled in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. In eight games, Ichiro went 8 for 38 batting only .211 with 3 RBI. But today Ichiro would rise like the sun.

Korea had tied the game in the 9th on a single by Bum Ho Lee off Japanese reliever Yu Darvish. Korea had runners on first and second but Darvish struck out second baseman Young Min Ko to force it into extra innings.

While Korea won gold at the Beijing Olympics they have not been able to beat Japan when it has counted. Ancient Korean hatred toward Japan continues to burn.

Not only has Japan won both WBC titles but Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka has won both WBC MVP honors. Of course, when Matsuzaka won the the WBC MVP in 2006 the Boston Red Sox became interested in his services and he would sign here the following year winning a World Series ring.

Some Red Sox fans didn't like the WBC tournament because Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis got hurt. Of course, if Derek Jeter got hurt those same fans would be dancing in the streets.

Some thought the quality of play wasn't up to MLB standards. I couldn't disagree more. Japan and Korea can play with any major league team.

In fact, what I would like to see in the future would be for the WBC to be held after the MLB season rather than before. The reason for that is I would like to see the WBC Champion play that year's World Series champion. Not necessarily in a best of seven series but in a goodwill exhibition game.

The next WBC will take place in 2013. Even though the WBC should be moved to the fall I have enjoyed watching meaningful baseball in March and has me stoked for the MLB season.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I felt the game was a bit of a letdown, but it may have been in large part due to the umpire. He seemed to give the Japanese hitters a smaller strike zone, but these did not take advantage and, despite getting 15 hits, left a lot of men on base, getting lucky enough to walk away with a 5-3 victory.

Bong was never able to get a rhythm due to the umpire giving him such a small strike zone. A lot of the pitches he threw for balls were being called strikes for Iwakuma. He had something like 96 pitches in 4 innings (100 being the limit) while Iwakuma lasted until the 7th. It could have been one heck of a pitcher's duel.

Ichiro delivered a classic battle at the end of the game when he battled Lim to stay alive in his at bat. Should he have been walked? Possibly, but there is no guarantee that the next guy would be a double play, and then, you would be facing Aoki with the bases loaded or with a run scored. Lim should have checked the baserunners and potentially gotten an out or two as they were clearly gunning for steals.

It wasn't the best baseball match I have ever seen, but it was enjoyable to watch. Congratulations to Japan for defending their title.