Japan wins World Baseball Classic
Michihiro Ogasawara drove in three runs and capped a four-run ninth inning with a sacrifice fly as Japan won the inaugural World Baseball Classic, defeating Cuba 10-6 in Monday night's final at Petco Park.
Kosuke Fukudome, Hitoshi Tamura and Toshiaki Imae each drove in two runs for Japan, which scored four times in the opening inning and nearly blew a five-run lead.
However, Ichiro Suzuki, one of just two major leaguers to play in the final, added insurance with an RBI single during the ninth-inning uprising.
Ichiro went 2-for-4 and crossed the plate three times, while Nobuhiko Matsunaka had three hits and also scored three runs.
Frederich Cepeda had three hits, including a two-run homer, and drove in three runs for Cuba.
Eduardo Paret added a solo shot.
Incredibly, Japan won the championship after only advancing past the second round via tiebreaker.
Japan, Mexico and the United States each finished with 1-2 marks from Pool 1, but Japan moved into the semifinals by allowing the fewest number of runs divided by the number of innings played in that round against teams tied in the standings.
Japan gave up five runs in 17 2/3 innings against Mexico and the U.S., while the Americans surrendered five runs in 17 innings against the two opponents.
Japan, which lost three times in the earlier rounds, including twice to Korea, got its revenge against the Asian foe with a 6-0 victory in Saturday's semifinals.
Cuba got into the final following a 3-1 victory over the Dominican Republic on Saturday.
Cuba scored twice in the sixth and two more times in the eighth to close within 6-5.
Yulieski Gourriel reached base on an error and Ariel Borrero singled with one out in the Cuban sixth.
Cepeda doubled in a run and Osmani Urrutia singled in another to draw Cuba within 6-3.
However, Yoandy Garlobo grounded into a double play to stop a further threat in that inning.
Japan committed two errors in the seventh, but Cuba couldn't score.
However, the Cubans drew within a run in the eighth when Cepeda homered to left field to drive in Gourriel, who singled earlier in the inning.
A throwing error by third baseman Michel Enriquez opened the door for Japan in the ninth.
Munenori Kawasaki barely slid in safely following Ichiro's single to right field to extend Japan to a 7-5 lead.
Fukudome, who belted a pinch-hit, two-run homer off Byung-Hyun Kim during a five-run seventh inning in Saturday's semifinal win over Korea, then laced a pinch two-run single to left field to make it 9-5.
Ogasawara's sacrifice fly to right field capped Japan's outburst.
Cuba got a run back in the ninth when Paret singled in Ariel Pestano, but Akinori Otsuka of the Texas Rangers struck out the final two batters to end the game and nail down the save.
The two teams met on the field for congratulatory handshakes and Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka, who started the championship game, was named the tournament's most valuable player.
Japan then tossed manager Sadaharu Oh high into the air in celebration.
Japan scored four times in the opening inning.
Tsuyoshi Nishioka singled and stole second in the first inning and Ichiro walked.
Matsunaka singled to load the bases with one out and Vicyohandry Odelin replaced Ormari Romero on the mound for Cuba.
Tamura was hit by a pitch, Ogasawara walked with two outs to force in another run.
Imae singled up the middle to drive in two more runs for a 4-0 lead.
Paret homered to left field in the bottom of the first, but Tamura singled in Ichiro in the fifth and it became 6-1 later in the inning on Ogasawara's sacrifice fly to left field.
Daisuke Matsuzaka gave up four hits and one run and struck out five over four innings to get the win.
Romero took the loss after allowing two hits and three runs while recording just one out in the first inning.
This was the 38th meeting between Cuba and Japan in Olympic, World Cup and International Cup play.
Cuba had won 33 of the first 37 encounters.