Two-time defending champion Japan hit a record-tying six home runs, scoring in all seven innings Sunday in Tokyo to rout the Netherlands 16-4 and reach the World Baseball Classic semifinals.
Japan built a 12-0 lead by the sixth inning, when the Netherlands closed on Wladimir Balentine's three-run double and Andruw Jones' RBI single.
Hayato Sakamoto's grand slam in the seventh that made it 16-4 and tied the team record of six homers, set by Cuba against South Africa in 2009. The game was called under the 10-run mercy rule when the Netherlands failed to close the gap in the bottom half.
"We've achieved our first goal of advancing to the final round," Japan manager Koji Yamamoto said. "The hitters swung the bats today, and getting some early runs was a huge boost for us."
Takashi Toritani homered leading off the game, the first home run for Japan in five games at 16-nation tournament.
Nobuhiro Matsuda widened the lead to 3-0 with a two-run homer in the second, and Seiichi Uchikawa made it 6-0 with a three-run drive that chased Rob Cordemans, who allowed six runs and five hits in 1 1-3 innings.
Atsunori Inaba hit a solo homer in the third against Tom Stuifbergen, and Yoshio Itoi had a three-run homer in the fourth. Sakamoto's slam came off Berry Van Driel.
Japan outhit the Dutch 17-6. The Netherlands plays Cuba on Tuesday, with the winners joining Japan in the semifinals at San Francisco on March 17 or 18,
Japan scored 17 runs in its first four games of the tournament and wasn't expected to rely on the long ball. Yamamoto's team has no players from the American major leagues.
Kenta Maeda allowed one hit in five innings, struck out nine and walked one.
"My fastball and offspeed pitches were working well today," Maeda said. "I knew it was a big game, so just tried to stay calm and pitch in my usual way. We're happy to be going to the United States."
Dominican Republic 4, Puerto Rico 2
Robinson Cano homered and the undefeated Dominican Republic beat Puerto Rico 4-2 on Sunday night to win their first-round group in the World Baseball Classic.
The New York Yankees slugger had three hits to help the Dominicans finish 3-0 in Group C. Next, they move on to the second round in Miami, where they will play Group D runner-up Italy on Tuesday.
"We want to get off on the right foot and win the first game," third baseman Hanley Ramirez said.
Puerto Rico took a 2-1 lead on Mike Aviles' two-run homer in the fourth inning, but Cano tied it with a solo shot in the fifth.
Alejandro De Aza doubled home the go-ahead run in the sixth and Nelson Cruz added an RBI groundout in the seventh. Fernando Rodney pitched a hitless ninth for his second save.
Puerto Rico finished second in the group with a 2-1 record and advanced to face the United States, which won Group D, on Tuesday night in Miami.
Venezuela 11, Spain 6
Venezuela broke out the bats too late.
Miguel Cabrera and Pablo Sandoval hit consecutive home runs Sunday in an 11-6 victory over Spain that came too late to matter at the World Baseball Classic.
Venezuela, which finished 1-2 in Group C, was eliminated from the competition Saturday night with a 6-3 loss to Puerto Rico. So the win over Spain (0-3) was of little consolation to the South American team that was loaded with major league All-Stars and had been considered a top contender.
"It is not a secret, things did not go well for us offensively," said Colorado Rockies slugger Carlos Gonzalez, who had two hits and scored twice. "That's why today we are packing."
Venezuela had more hits Sunday (16) than in its first two games combined. Cabrera went 3 for 5 with three RBIs and scored three runs. Omar Infante also had three hits and Elvis Andrus knocked in two runs.
Cabrera and Sandoval connected in the eighth inning.
Venezuela also lost its opener to the Dominican Republic, 9-3. The star-studded lineup finally got rolling Sunday, but it was too late.
Spain started strong, scoring three runs in the first inning, but Venezuela had seven hits and six runs in a big fourth inning that included a two-run single by Andrus. All the runs scored with two outs.
"We started well today, contrary to the other times. But we have to play throughout the game," Spain manager Mauro Mazzotti said. "The rules of baseball say that you have to avoid a big inning, and we had one with two outs, with six runs. That killed the chances for us."
Starting pitcher Ramon Ramirez got the win for Venezuela. He allowed three runs, four hits and struck out four in four innings.
Still, the Venezuelan team was understandably disappointed with its overall performance. The club did not make it past the first round for the first time in three editions of the WBC.
"We did not play well," Gonzalez said. "We did not seize the opportunities or create opportunities for ourselves."
The Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico played later Sunday to determine the winner of Group C. Both teams are headed to the next round in Miami.