SAN DIEGO — While Samurai Japan picked up another win at the 2009 World Baseball Classic, it was what they lost that had people talking.
Michihiro Ogasawara sparked a three-run eighth with a tie-breaking RBI single and an injury knocked Shuichi Murata out of the tournament as Japan defeated South Korea 6-2 on Thursday night at PETCO Park.
With runners on second and third and the game tied at 2-2, Ogasawara lined a pinch-hit single into right field to lift his team to a victory.
“I was getting ready in the middle of the game,” Ogasawara said. “I was warming up and then the opportunity was there and I walked right into it.
“I was tenacious and I wanted to produce something in the at-bat,” he added. “Everyone worked hard, did their share, and we were able to win tonight and that was good for us.”
Not so good for Japan was Murata’s condition after the slugger’s injury in the fourth inning. Murata, who was injured while running to first base after collecting his second hit of the game, is speculated to have a serious hamstring injury. The injury will sideline him for the remainder of the tournament.
“I used my whole body and did my best,” Murata said in a statement that was read to the media. “The rest of the way, I just hope for everyone to do their best.”
Murata was tied with Norichika Aoki for the team lead in RBIs (7) and was batting .320 with two home runs through seven games.
“Until (today’s game) he has hit well and fielded well for us,” pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka said. “Shu feels sorry and I feel sorry, too.”
“He’s not in a condition to be able to play,” Japan manager Tatsunori Hara said. “So he will have to be replaced, that’s what the WBC told me and that’s the rule.
“Of course I did talk to Murata, and he did a good job. However, we have other important games left and he has to be replaced.”
Hiroshima Carp first baseman Kenta Kurihara will be Murata’s replacement and is expected to join the team on Saturday. Kurihara got word during a spring training game in Takamatsu and promptly returned to Hiroshima.
“To replace Murata, I had to look for somebody who can replace him,” Hara said. “Kurihara is the only one and that’s why I selected Kurihara.”
Kurihara batted .332 with 23 home runs and 103 RBIs for the Carp in 2008.
South Korea had an injury scare of its own early on.
Lee Yong Kyun left the game in the third inning after being hit in the head by a pitch from starter Tetsuya Utsumi.
The right fielder suffered a contusion to the lower neck and is listed as day-to-day.
The game was the fourth meeting for the teams at this WBC, with each winning twice. Their next possible matchup would be in the WBC final.
Aoki, Atsunori Inaba, Akinori Iwamura and Murata each finished with a pair of hits and Seiichi Uchikawa homered as Japan rolled into the next round on a high after consecutive victories against Cuba and South Korea.
Both teams had qualified for the semifinal before the game, which was to determine who would be the No. 1 seed from the group in the next round.
“This (game) was after we learned yesterday that we were advancing to Los Angeles,” Hara said. “Psychologically, I as well as all of the players were flat.”
Ichiro Suzuki’s frustrating WBC continued with a 1-for-5 performance at the plate, while his Seattle Mariners teammate Kenji Johjima was 1-for-3.
Fellow major leaguer Kosuke Fukudome did not play.
Pitcher Hideaki Wakui struck out the only batter he faced to earn in win in relief.
South Korea’s Oh Seung Hwan was charged with the loss after giving up Ogasawara’s hit.
South Korea got on the scoreboard first, taking a 1-0 lead on Kim Hyun Soo’s RBI ground-rule double in the first inning.
Uchikawa took a 136-km fastball for a ride over the left-field wall to tie the game in the second. Yasuyuki Kataoka struck later in the inning with a shallow flyball that allowed a run to score.
Lee Bum Ho connected on his third homer of the WBC in the seventh, a solo drive which tied the score at 2-2.
Aoki and Inaba led off the eighth with singles to give Japan runners on first and second with no outs. Ogasawara then broke the tie with his RBI single.
Japan went ahead 5-2 on Iwamura’s run-scoring single and an error by center fielder Jeong Keun Woo which allowed another run to score.
Aoki made the score 6-2 with a RBI single in the ninth.