The Asian half of the World Baseball Classic bracket now has a clear front-runner, and it’s Japan.
The Pool B hosts cemented their “most-likely-to-succeed” profile Friday with a thorough 13-4 dispatching of potential rival Korea at the Tokyo Dome. The team known as “Samurai Japan” now needs only to polish off Australia or the Czech Republic this weekend to ensure advancement; they’ll be heavily favored in both games.
World Baseball Classic: Japan dominates Korea
As is usually the case, DH/pitcher Shohei Ohtani played a starring role Friday. He was 2-for-3 with a pair of walks, although Ohtani’s impact on scoring was limited to the two times he touched home plate and the one run he drove in.
Probably the game’s key hit was delivered by the team’s Viking Samurai, Lars Nootbaar. The St. Louis Cardinals outfielder, who qualifies to play for Japan because of his mother’s heritage, helped the Pool B hosts rally from an early 3-0 deficit with a run-scoring single that ignited a four-run third inning. It was one of Nootbaar’s two hits and set his team on course to score 13 of the game’s next 14 runs.
Nootbaar dominated the battle of the Cardinals ex-pats. His summer MLB teammate, second baseman Tommy Edman of Team Korea, was hitless in four at-bats.
From an American baseball standpoint, the most impactful performance was turned in by a guy who’s never played a game on this side of the Pacific … yet. Outfielder Masataka Yoshida, who over the winter signed a five-year, $90 million contract with the Boston Red Sox, was 3-for-3 with five RBI, one of those hits producing two runs in that four-run third.