The team known as Samurai Japan gave the rest of the World Baseball Classic field something to worry about Thursday with a convincing showing against China on its home field.
Team Japan makes a statement in World Baseball Classic
The 8-1 final was never really in doubt. St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Lars Nootbaar singled to start the game, and China starter Xiang Wang walked the next three hitters for a quick 1-0 lead.
That was almost, although not literally, all the Japanese needed, especially with Shohei Ohtani as the starter. Ohtani doubled and singled in addition to drawing one of those three walks, and pitched four one-hit innings, striking out five.
Ohtani and his three successors on the mound for Japan combined to allow just three base hits and one walk, striking out a combined 17 Chinese hitters.
The home team built on that early 1-0 advantage gradually and inexorably. In the fourth, Nootbaar singled and came home on Ohtani’s double to left.
Ohtani’s eighth-inning base hit started a four-run Japan rally that removed the game from the realm of “close.” Four walks, a single and a double later, Japan had its final 8-1 margin.
This was not a dominant performance by the Japanese lineup, which generated a credible but not gaudy nine base hits. But the hosts received a massive amount of foreign aid from China pitchers, who walked a prodigious 16 opponents.
Wang, the China starter, walked six of the 13 batters he faced in 1.2 innings, striking out nobody.
China also made the game’s only two fielding errors.