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Australia opens Classic looking to slow Japan

MLB.com

Japan, a two-time World Baseball Classic champion, is off to a fast start in 2017 after slugging its way past Cuba, 11-6, on Tuesday.

The Japanese will look to keep the momentum on their side Wednesday, when they square off against Team Australia at 5 a.m. ET (7 p.m. local time) at the Tokyo Dome, live on MLB Network. Right-hander Tomoyuki Sugano starts on the mound for Japan, opposite righty Tim Atherton for Australia.

Japan, a two-time World Baseball Classic champion, is off to a fast start in 2017 after slugging its way past Cuba, 11-6, on Tuesday.

The Japanese will look to keep the momentum on their side Wednesday, when they square off against Team Australia at 5 a.m. ET (7 p.m. local time) at the Tokyo Dome, live on MLB Network. Right-hander Tomoyuki Sugano starts on the mound for Japan, opposite righty Tim Atherton for Australia.

:: 2017 World Baseball Classic ::

Five Japanese position players collected a multihit game in the club's opener, led by third baseman and No. 8 hitter Nobuhiro Matsuda, who went 4-for-5 with a homer and four RBIs. Stifling Japan's balanced offense will be a tough task for Australia, which takes the field for the first time in WBC '17.

The Australians hope to turn the tables on their Classic history. Australia competed in all three of the previous tournaments, but it managed just one victory in nine contests. The Aussies will have their hands full against the Japanese on Wednesday.

Video: 3/7/17: Matsuda's four hits lift Japan to 11-6 win

Things to know about this game

• Australia's pitching staff is led by 11 hurlers who are on Major League teams, highlighted by the Athletics' Liam Hendriks. The Oakland right-hander struck out 142 batters in 129 1/3 innings over his past two MLB seasons.

• Matsuda, who drilled a three-run shot in the fifth inning in Tuesday's win over Cuba, clubbed 35 home runs for the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks of the Nippon Professional Baseball Organization in 2015 and 27 more a year ago. The 33-year-old is playing in his second Classic, and he is off to a terrific start after hitting .333 with one home run and five RBIs in seven games for Team Japan in the '13 tournament.

• Astros outfielder Norichika Aoki is the only Major League player on Japan's roster. Aoki, who scored Japan's first run of the tournament and hauled in a magnificent catch in center field on Tuesday, is playing in his third Classic (he participated in both 2006 and '09).

Video: CUB@JPN: Aoki makes a terrific catch in center

The World Baseball Classic runs through March 22. In the U.S., games air live exclusively in English on MLB Network and on an authenticated basis via MLBNetwork.com/watch, while ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN provide the exclusive Spanish-language coverage. MLB.TV Premium subscribers in the U.S. have access to watch every tournament game live on any of the streaming service's 400-plus supported devices. The tournament is being distributed internationally across all forms of television, internet, mobile and radio in territories excluding the U.S., Puerto Rico and Japan. Get tickets for games at Marlins Park, Tokyo Dome, Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, Estadio Charros de Jalisco in Mexico, Petco Park, as well as the Championship Round at Dodger Stadium, while complete coverage -- including schedules, video, stats and gear -- is available at WorldBaseballClassic.com.

Oliver Macklin is a reporter for MLB.com.

Australia, Japan