Saturday, March 2, 2024

Ohtani long HR powers Japan; Italy advances at World Classic

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TOKYO (AP) — Shohei Ohtani hit a 448-foot, three-run home run in the first inning that landed just below his image on a video advertising board and had four RBIs to lead Japan over Australia 7-1 Sunday night at the World Baseball Classic.

Japan, already assured of advancement, won its group with a 4-0 record and will play a quarterfinal on Wednesday against Italy, which advanced along with Cuba from Group A on tiebreakers. Matt Harvey got the win as Italy defeated the Netherlands 7-1, causing all five teams to finish 2-2.

South Korea beat the Czech Republic 7-3 in the day’s other Group B game and Cuba defeated Taiwan 7-1 in Group A.

Ohtani turned on a hanging curveball from loser Will Sherriff, who didn’t even watch the flight of the ball into the Tokyo Dome’s right-field seats, bending and putting hands on his knees. It was the first home run of the tournament for Ohtani, who is 6 for 12 with eight RBIs and seven walks. He walked with the bases loaded in the sixth, the third straight walk after reliever Blake Townsend entered.

Winner Yoshinobu Yamamoto struck out eight in four scoreless innings, allowing one hit and no walks. He threw 42 of 60 pitches for strikes, averaging 95.2 mph with his fastball and topping out at 96.9 mph. The 24-year-old right-hander was the Pacific League’s MVP for the Orix Buffaloes in 2021 and 2022, and pitched a no-hitter last June 22 against the Saitama Seibu Lions.

Robbie Perkins was the only Australia batter to reach against Yamamato, on a one-out single in the third. Alex Hall homered in the ninth off Hiroto Takahashi, who finished a five-pitcher, five-hitter.

Australia (2-1) is second in Group B, ahead of the Czechs and South Korea (both 1-2) and eliminated China (0-3). Australia would advance with a win over the Czechs on Monday, when South Korea plays China.

ITALY 7, NETHERLANDS 1

TAICHUNG, Taiwan (AP) — Italian players had to wait a few minutes after the final out to find out they advanced with Cuba while the Netherlands, Taiwan and Panama were eliminated. The group was decided by runs allowed divided by outs, and Cuba (15/108, .139) finished first, followed by Italy (17/108, .157), Netherlands (19/102, .186), Panama (21/105, .200) and Taiwan (31/105, .295).

Chadwick Tromp homered in the thrd, but Italy burst ahead with a six-run fourth capped by Nicky Lopez’s two-run triple. Brett Sullivan, Ben DeLuzio and Sal Frelick had RBI singles, and loser Mike Bolsenbroek threw a run-scoring wild pitch. Frelick added a run-scoring single in the eighth.

Harvey allowed one run and two hits in four innings with three strikeouts for the Italians, managed by Mike Piazza.

The Netherlands, needing three runs to advance, put two on with no outs in the ninth against Mitchell Stumpo. Juremi Profar struck out, Tromp popped out to the pitcher in foul territory near the plate and Ray-Patrick Didder struck out.

Dutch left fielder Jurickson Profar made a sprawling backhand catch on Dominic Fletcher’s two-out fly in the eighth, saving two runs.

Xander Boagerts went 4 for 15 (.267) with one RBI in the tournament, Jurickson Profar was 3 for 13 (.231) with one RBI, Didi Gregorius was 3 for 12 with three RBIs and Jonathan Schoop 1 for 13 (.077) with no RBIs

SOUTH KOREA 7, CZECH REPUBLIC 3

TOKYO (AP) — Ha-Seong Kim of the San Diego Padres hit two solo homers for South Korea.

Winning pitcher Se Woong Park struck out eight in 4 2/3 innings. South Korea improved to 1-2 in Group B and will play winless China in its final group game. The Czechs are also 1-2.

St. Louis Cardinals infielder Tommy Edman had a two-run single for South Korea. Kim’s homer in the sixth made it 6-0.

Matej Mensik put the Czech Republic on the board with a two-run double in the seventh. Kim hit his second homer of the game in the bottom half.

Loser Lukas Ercoli allowed six runs in 1 1/3 innings.

CUBA 7, TAIWAN 1

TAICHUNG, Taiwan (AP) — Cuba got home runs from Yoán Moncada of the Chicago White Sox and Erisbel Arruebarrena.

Cuba broke out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning on a double by Alfredo Despaigne that scored Moncada and White Sox teammate Luis Robert. Arruebarrena’s two-run homer later in the inning made it 4-0.

Cuba starter Elian Leyva pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings for the win, striking out four. Loser Shih-Peng Chen allowed five runs — four earned — and five hits in 1 1/3 innings.


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