Sho Tanaka drove in the winning run on a sacrifice fly in the top of the 10th inning Friday to lift defending champion Japan past Taiwan 4-3 in the second round of the World Baseball Classic.
Tanaka's fly to the warning track in left allowed Nobuhiro Matsuda to score from third at Toyko Dome. Toshiya Suguichi retired Taiwan in the bottom of the 10th to clinch the win.
"There is nothing better than coming through for your teammates and fans when you get a chance like that," Tanaka said. "This was a huge win for us, and I'm glad I was able to contribute."
Japan will face the Netherlands on Sunday with a chance to secure a spot in the March 17-19 final round in San Francisco. Japan is attempting to win a third straight WBC title without its top players from Major League Baseball.
The Netherlands beat Cuba 6-2 on Friday. Taiwan must beat Cuba on Saturday to advance.
Taiwan took a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the eighth when Szu-Chi Chou singled to centre to score Cheng-Min Peng from third. But Japan tied it in the top of the ninth when Hirokazu Ibata hit a two-out single to centre that scored Takashi Toritani from third.
Taiwan held a 2-0 lead through eighth inning before Japan tied the game in the top of the eighth with a pair of runs.
"This was an entire team effort," Japan manager Koji Yamamoto said. "Our hitters came through when we needed them and the pitchers did a great job."
Adrian Gonzalez homered and drove in three runs, seven pitchers handcuffed United States hitters all night and Mexico rebounded from a disappointing opening loss with a decisive 5-2 win over the Americans in Pool D of the World Baseball Classic on Friday.
Coming off a last-inning loss to Italy, Mexico (1-1) tagged U.S. starter R.A. Dickey for four runs in the first three innings, including a two-run homer by Gonzalez in the third.
Yovani Gallardo got Mexico off to a good start with 3 1-3 solid innings and Luis Cruz had two RBIs to give a boisterous, pro-Mexico crowd of 44,256 plenty to cheer about at Chase Field.
Team USA (0-1) never recovered after Dickey's early struggles, managing six singles among its eight hits while stranding eight runners in opening the WBC with a dud.
The U.S. team has been so-so thus far in the WBC, getting past the round-robin stage but stalling out in the semifinals the first two times, helping to clear the way for Japan to win the first two titles.
Team USA is stocked for a good run in this year's tournament, trotting out a lineup that includes three former league MVPs — Ryan Braun, Joe Mauer and Jimmy Rollins — along with nine other players who have been major league All-Stars.
Jonathan Schoop hit a three-run homer to lead the Netherlands over Cuba 6-2 Friday in the second round of the World Baseball Classic.
Curt Smith homered and Andrelton Simmons added an RBI single to give the Netherlands a 2-0 lead in the second inning while chasing Cuba starter Ismel Jimenez, who allowed five hits in 1 2-3 innings.
Schoop's sixth-inning drive into the left-field stands at the Tokyo Dome gave the Netherlands a 5-1 cushion in the first game of the second round in Asia.
Two-time defending champion Japan defeated Tawain 4-3 in 10 innings Friday. Cuba must defeat Taiwan on Saturday to have a chance to advance to the final round in San Francisco on March 17-19.
Netherlands starter Diego Markwell earned the win, allowing one run and nine hits over six innings.
"This was a huge win for us," Netherlands manager Hensley Meulens said. "We had a plan to attack and the guys executed it well. Jonathan had a big game with a three-run homer and another run in the eighth. The guys hit the ball well."
Alfredo Despaigne homered in the second inning to give Cuba its first run. Yulieski Gourriel went deep in the seventh to cut the deficit to 5-2.
"We hit into five double plays and that caused a lot of trouble for us," Cuba manager Victor Mesa said. "We gave a three-run homer in the sixth and that was big. We had a lot of runners on base but couldn't score."
Carlos Beltran's RBI double keyed a three-run first inning and a trio of Puerto Rico pitchers combined on a five-hitter in a 3-0 victory over Spain at the World Baseball Classic on Friday.
In the tournament opener for both teams, Angel Pagan got Puerto Rico started with a leadoff single against Sergio Perez. One out later, Alex Rios was hit by a pitch and Beltran drove in Pagan with a double to right.
Yadier Molina reached on an error and Mike Aviles hit a sacrifice fly. Consecutive walks to Pedro Valdes and Carlos Rivera forced in another run.
Puerto Rico had several chances to break it open but never scored again against a Spanish team loaded with Latin American players.
"I think we were the only ones who were not underestimating the team from Spain, and they proved it tonight," Puerto Rico manager Edwin Rodriguez said. "Spain has a good team, and good pitching."
Puerto Rico starter Giancarlo Alvarado struck out four in four innings of one-hit ball. Hiram Burgos followed with 4 2/3 innings and Xavier Cedeno threw a called third strike past pinch-hitter Salomon Manriquez with a runner on to end it.
Puerto Rico joined the Dominican Republic atop the Group C standings. The Dominicans beat Venezuela 9-3 in their opener Thursday night at Hiram Bithorn Stadium. Spain faces the Dominican Republic in the early game Saturday. Puerto Rico plays Venezuela.
Chris Colabello hit a three-run homer as Italy beat Canada 14-4 in a game that was ended by the mercy rule in the eighth inning Friday after not one, but two walk-off victories.
The first came on what appeared to be a grand slam by Mike Costanzo. Italy, which swarmed the field to celebrate, was forced back to the dugout after replay showed the hit was a ground-rule double that scored only two runners.
But one batter later, Mario Chiarini's single scored the run that put Italy ahead by the 10-run limit and sent Canada slumping to the locker-room.
"Obviously we weren't happy coming into the clubhouse," said outfielder Michael Saunders. "Baseball's a grind, man. Baseball is so mental and we got to learn to let this go. The quicker the better. You've got to have a short memory whether good or bad. We have a lot of tournament left. No one said this was going to be easy.
"So we've got to come in ready to go tomorrow. We lost today and we've got to forget about it."
Canada (0-1) now faces must-win games against Mexico on Saturday and the United States on Sunday. If Canada wins those games, and is tied for second place in Pool D with a 2-1 record, then the tiebreaker is decided by run differential from the games between the tied teams.
Fresh off a surprise 6-5 win over Mexico on Thursday, the numbers put Italy (2-0) on the cusp of a major breakthrough. The team's previous lone highlight at the WBC was in 2009 when it eliminated Canada 6-2 at Toronto's Rogers Centre.