Japan back on winning track

Kyodo

Yoshinobu Takahashi drove in three runs and Tsuyoshi Wada struck out seven over seven scoreless innings as Japan inflicted a first defeat on Canada with a 9-1 victory at the Athens Games on Friday.

News photoYoshinobu Takahashi of Japan belts a two-run homer
against Canada during their preliminary-round game on Friday. Japan won 9-1.

The result moved Japan, which fell to Australia for its first loss in Athens on Wednesday, into a tie for first place with the Canadians in the eight-team preliminary round. Both teams have 4-1 records, one win ahead of Cuba, which plays the Netherlands later Friday.

Daiei Hawks southpaw Wada enjoyed a solid outing on the mound in his Olympic debut, allowing just three hits against a Canadian lineup featuring eight left-handed batters.

Wada allowed a runner past second just once when he threw a wild pitch to put runners on second and third in the second, but he escaped the jam by striking out Jeff Guiel for the inning-ending out.

“I was able to pitch like it was a regular-season game because (Kenji) Jojima was catching,” Wada said of his Daiei battery-mate.

“I knew we couldn’t afford to lose any more games, but the batters drove in all those runs so I was able to enjoy my outing today,” he said.

Offensively, Yomiuri Giants outfielder Takahashi drove in a team-high three runs on a two-run homer and an RBI sacrifice fly while outfielders Kosuke Fukudome of the Chunichi Dragons and Kazuhiro Wada of the Seibu Lions combined for three runs.

Takahashi connected off Mike Johnson, who played 81 games with the Montreal Expos through the 2001 season, to put Japan on the board in the first before Orix BlueWave outfielder Yoshitomo Tani homered in the second to give Japan a 3-0 lead.

In the fourth, Kazuhiro Wada hit a two-run homer over the center field wall and Fukudome followed with an RBI single to make it 7-0.

Johnson was knocked out after four innings, having allowed seven runs on six hits and two walks.

For Japan, Chunichi lefty Hitoki Iwase worked a perfect eighth and Lotte Marines right-hander Masahide Kobayashi closed out the ninth, despite giving up a run on back-to-back hits.

Right fielder Fukudome showed outstanding fielding in the sixth and seventh as he robbed Pete Laforest of a double with a laser-like throw to second and Todd Betts of a hit with a jumping catch against the wall.

“Some of us have been to Japan so we knew what to expect,” Betts, a former Yakult Swallows player, said after a 0-for-3 outing.

“It was unfortunate for us that it turned out to be such a flat game but we’re still in great shape. Their starting pitcher moves the ball around on both sides of the plate and kept us off-balance,” he said.