Japan cruises past China, goes 3-0 in Pool B

March 10th, 2017

TOKYO -- Japan prepared for the second round of the World Baseball Classic with an easy 7-1 win over China in Pool B's final first-round game Friday at Tokyo Dome.

Catcher Seiji Kobayashi and first baseman Sho Nakata belted two-run homers for Japan, which had already clinched first place in Pool B and a spot in the second round. Japan will open second-round play against the Netherlands on Sunday (6 a.m. ET) at Tokyo Dome.

Japan won all three of its first-round games in impressive fashion. The hosts beat Cuba, 11-6, and got by Australia, 4-1, before beating China. Left fielder Yoshitomo Tsutsugoh, who homered in each of the first two wins, was named the Most Valuable Player in Pool B.

:: 2017 World Baseball Classic ::

"I don't send any signs for the cleanup guy," Japan manager Hiroki Kokubu said of Tsutsugoh. "His job is just get RBIs, and he just did what exactly I was expecting for him."

China finished pool play winless.

"We have a lot of things to work on, but this is a building block and I think we took another step forward," China manager John McLaren said.

Retired Major Leaguer , who was expected to pitch in relief for China, got sick and was unable to come to Tokyo Dome. Chen, who works in the Indians' front office, pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings against Australia and said this will be his last tournament.


Japan power: Going into the tournament, Japan didn't expect to build its offense on home runs. But homers have been a big part of Japan's game all week. Kobayashi and Nakata's home runs Friday gave Japan six in the three games of the first round. Nakata's homer was his second of the tournament.

"To be honest with you, I didn't expect [us] to hit so [many] home runs," said Kokubu. "That was more than I expected."

China scores: McLaren was openly critical of his team's performance in Thursday's 11-0 loss to Australia. While the Chinese pitching wasn't good against Japan, China did show some life at the plate. Third baseman Ray Chang, playing his last game before joining MLB to help develop baseball in China, singled home Fujia Chu in the third inning to give China a run.

"It was really cool to feel that rush of adrenaline again," said Chang, who retired after 12 seasons in the Minor Leagues and three World Baseball Classic appearances with China. More >

Getting ready: Japan had already qualified for the second round, but Kokubu elected to play almost all of his regulars against China to get them ready for Sunday's second-round opener against the Netherlands. One player who did get the night off was Astros outfielder , who was one of the few Japan starters who worked out Thursday.

Fujinami shows off: Major League scouts in attendance at Tokyo Dome had been waiting to see 22-year-old Japan right-hander Shintaro Fujinami, who didn't appear in the first two games. Fujinami entered Friday's game in the fourth inning and showed off a fastball that clocked in the mid-90s on the radar gun. Over two scoreless innings, he fanned four batters, allowed one walk and hit a batter.

Kokubu said he hasn't determined whether he'll use Fujinami as a starter or reliever in the second round.


"It's hard to see right now with the results, but we have really improved a lot. I'm really excited to take this to the next level. You know what, we'll be back." -- Chang, who is retiring to take a job as manager of the MLB Development Center in Nanjing, China


Japan: The Japanese will work out Saturday in preparation for their second-round opener against the Netherlands at 6 a.m. ET on Sunday at Tokyo Dome.

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, 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.