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Hoshino leads Japan to Olympics

Kyodo

Japan secured a spot in the baseball tournament of next year’s Beijing Olympic Games with a 10-2 victory over Taiwan at the Asian Championship on Monday.

News photoYu Darvish reacts during Monday’s game against Taiwan. With a 10-2 win, Japan clinched a spot for the Beijing Olympics.
KYODO PHOTO

Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Munenori Kawasaki, Takahiro Arai and Shinnosuke Abe had RBI hits in a six-run rally in the seventh inning to help Japan finish on top of the four-team final round with three wins in as many games.

South Korea wins

TAICHUNG, Taiwan(Kyodo) Kim Min Jae and Ko Young Min drove in six runs between them as South Korea routed the Philippines 13-1 on Monday to end their campaign in the Asian Championship final round with a 2-1 record.

South Korea took a 2-0 lead in the second inning on Kim’s two-run double and batted around in a seven-run fifth before adding four runs in the sixth in a game called after seven innings due to the tournament’s 10-run mercy rule.

Ko went 3-for-4 with a two-run homer and four RBIs, while Ryu Jae Kuk allowed one unearned run and three hits in five innings. The Philippines finished bottom of the four-team final round at 0-3.

South Korea is left with a chance to win the championship and a spot in next year’s Beijing Olympics depending on the result of the game between Japan and Taiwan scheduled for Monday night at Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium.

Manager steamed

TAICHUNG, Taiwan(Kyodo) Japan manager Senichi Hoshino was furious after South Korea made a major change to its lineup in the last minute prior to Sunday’s crucial game between the Asian archrivals in an Olympic qualifying tournament.

“I was surprised to see those South Korean players on the field, totally different from the list we got earlier,” Hoshino told reporters after Japan held off the South Koreans 4-3 and moved closer to a spot in next year’s Olympic Games in Beijing.

“I don’t understand why that happened,” Hoshino said, referring to a gentlemen’s agreement on announcing starting lineups, which was reached in a managers’ meeting held Friday ahead of the start of the final round of the tournament.

The tournament rules allow managers to change their lineups when they directly exchange them minutes before the start of a game. Under the gentlemen’s agreement, however, managers are supposed to submit their lineups at least one hour before the umpire’s call to play the game.

South Korea, who would have secured a place in the Olympics with a win over Japan on Sunday, apparently made the change after learning that left-hander Yoshihisa Naruse had been named the starter for Japan instead of right-hander Yu Darvish, the Sawamura Award winner who had been widely expected to start Sunday night.

On the starting list handed out to reporters before the game, South Korea had left-handed hitters in the leadoff and second slots.

But South Korea actually fielded six right-handed hitters in a row from the top of the order and even changed its scheduled starting pitcher to left-hander Jun Byung Ho from right-hander Ryu Jae Kuk, causing confusion in the Japan dugout and media alike.

Japan shrugged off the disputed move with its victory on the strength of solid pitching performances by Naruse and three relievers, coupled with effective offensive support, in a four-hour marathon — typically a close contest between the Asian neighbors.

“I don’t mind now that we won it!” an excited Hoshino said in a post-game interview when asked about the Koreans’ “breach of an agreement.”

Japan closer Koji Uehara, who has ample experience of pitching in international tournaments, reacted calmly to the South Korean move.

“It happens very often in international games,” said Uehara, who closed out the game with a perfect ninth and helped Japan move a step closer to the Asian Championship title and an Olympic berth.

“I personally don’t mind. I guess it’s better not to care about stuff like that in international competition,” he said.