Japan wins World Baseball Classic, 10-6

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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Box Score
Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Runs Hits Errors
Japan 4 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 4 10 10 3
Cuba 1 0 0 0 0 2 0 2 1 6 11 1

Today at around 6:00 a.m. UTC, Akinori Otsuka struck out Cuban star Youlieski Gourriel to give Japan a 10-6 victory over Cuba in the inaugural World Baseball Classic. Daisuke Matsuzaka recorded the win with a 1.38 ERA and was named the tournament's most valuable player. The game was played in PETCO Park before a crowd of 42,696.

World Baseball Classic final, March 20, 2006

The highly-touted Japanese team took a commanding lead in the first inning. Vicyohandry Odelin walked one man with the bases loaded, and hit another. The four-run first inning was capped off by Toshiake Imae's two-run single. Cuba used three pitchers in the inning, including starter Omari Romero and reliever Norberto Gonzalez. Japan also added two more runs in the fifth inning, after three straight base hits to start the inning and Michihiro Ogasawara's sacrifice fly with one out. Ichiro Suzuki's one-out RBI single off of Adiel Palma in the ninth drove in Osmani Urrutia, which proved to be the winning run. After an intentional walk, Kosuke Fukudome put the game away with a base hit to left that scored two. Michihiro Ogaswara added a sacrifice fly.

Cuba's Eduardo Paret started the bottom of the first inning with a solo home run that landed in the first row of the left field stands. Cuba mounted a rally in the ninth, when Ariel Pastano led off with a double. He was eventually driven in by Cuban shortstop Eduardo Peret's infield single, but Cuba was unable to score any more runs. Cuba responded with four straight hits of their own in the bottom of the sixth, scoring two runs. Designated hitter Yoandy Garlobo grounded into an inning-ending double play, with men on first and third. Frederich Cepeda's two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth inning off of Soichi Fujita cut the Japanese lead to 6-5, before the four-run Japanese ninth put the game away.

After 5 failed tries at the Olympics, Japan has finally capped it off with this gold-medal win at the Classic. "My players showed me a fantastic performance tonight," Sadaharu Oh, the team's coach, said through a translator after the game. "I know they did it for Japan." Most people agree that this victory has driven home the fact that baseball is now an international sport, not just an American sport. The team has stuck with the tournament, through bad calls and good alike, and the reward was the sterling silver trophy presented to them as champions of the World Baseball Classic. Even Ichiro Suzuki was amazed by their work, saying "To be honest, I never imagined we'd get there. We had a great team, the best. I hope we showed everyone what a great sport baseball is."

Cuba's amazing run was stopped short, but beisbol was still at the top of Cuba's mind after the defeat. “Personally, I think we have shown the quality of Cuban players,” Cuba manager Higinio Velez said. “I told everybody to have patience. I said we are team of men, not names.” The Cuban team barreled through so many major leaguers, but today everything cracked, especially the pitching. However, they never gave up, rallying in the last inning, but just like Frederich Cepeda said, “We went and fought for this game just like every other game in this tournament, but Japan also went out and fought for this game. We tried to get back on top, but they played better than we did and they deserve the victory because they played better.” Due to the deal that allowed Cuba into the WBC, they are donating all their money to Hurricane Katrina Victims.

MLB commissioner and WBC organizer Bud Selig admitted, "The intensity in the stands as well as the intensity on the playing field was absolutely remarkable, and I'm not sure that going into it you could have felt that. I'm very confident that this will be the platform that we use to take this sport internationally to the dimension that I want to take it and believe that we will." Spikes worn by Oh, a jersey worn by Matsuzaka, a baseball cap worn by Nobuhiko Matsunaka, a helmet worn by Ichiro, and a warm-up jacket worn by Koji Uehara, will all be sent to Cooperstown's Baseball Hall of Fame to be displayed.

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