By Circles Robinson
HAVANA TIMES, March 23 — Japan and Korea have done with baseball what they did over decades with industry, go from being marked lesser quality to the top of the line.
Tonight at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles the Asian rivals will face off in the championship game of the World Baseball Classic having left behind such American continent powerhouses as Team USA, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Venezuela and Puerto Rico.
Hard work, lots of study and the best of strategies have led to a string of important victories: Japan in the 2006 World Baseball Classic, Korea in the Beijing Olympics and now one of them in Classic Two.
In their semifinal match-up Korea manhandled Venezuela 10-2 in a game that was decided in the first inning. In the case of Japan, it was the fourth inning on Sunday night when they built an insurmountable 6-2 lead over MLB star studded Team USA, en route to a 9-4 final.
The US had a fleeting 2-1 lead after three innings including a game opening solo homer by second baseman Brian Roberts off Japanese ace Daisuke Matsuzaka. But the roof caved in on starter Roy Oswalt in the bottom of the fourth when Japan put together a five-run rally that soured the hopes of the home team.
A two-run double by first baseman Mark De Rosa off reliever Takahiro Mahara gave Team USA a moment of fleeting hope in the eighth to bring the score to 6-4, but that didn’t last long as Japan added three more in the ninth to finish off the scoring.
Matsuzaka was the winning pitcher and Yu Darvish, the last of four relievers, pitched the scoreless ninth. Oswalt took the loss for the USA. Short stop Hiroyuki Nakajima and catcher Kenji Jojima had two RBIs each for Japan. DH Asunori Inaba and third baseman Munenori Kawasaki scored two runs each.
So now it’s the defending WBC champions against the Beijing Olympic champions in the final game of the tournament. Game time is 9:00 p.m. ET.
All World Baseball Classic games have been broadcast nationally on Cuban television and radio.
For more on Cuba’s participation in the WBC and greater insight about the tournament, see Peter C. Bjarkman’s Havana Times WBC diary at: http://havanatimes.org/?p=5062