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23 March 2009
Defending champion Japan defeated the United States 9-4 in the semifinal of the World Baseball Classic Sunday, and will advance to the title match against South Korea Monday.
The U.S. team had a 2-1 lead in the third inning, but Japan pulled ahead with five runs in the fourth inning against starting U.S. pitcher Roy Oswalt. Japan's Akinori Iwamura's RBI triple was the key hit. The United States scored two runs in the eighth inning before Japan made three runs in the bottom of the inning.
The U.S. team has been troubled with injuries, and team member Jimmy Rollins said Japan played "winning baseball."
"So if there's anything you can take away from what we've seen, is take advantage of another team's mistakes," he said.
Boston Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka remained undefeated in the World Baseball Classic. Matsuzaka, starting pitcher for Japan, allowed just five hits and two runs in the first four-plus innings Sunday. He struck out four.
U.S. manager Davey Johnson said Japan played good defensive baseball.
"And I've got to hand it to them, a very good team," he said.
Japan will face South Korea in Los Angeles Monday. South Korea trounced Venezuela 10-2 in the other semifinal Saturday.
Japan won the inaugural World Baseball Classic in 2006 by beating Cuba in the final. South Korea earned the gold medal for international baseball at last year's Beijing Olympics.