Japan and the Netherlands didn’t play a full nine innings in their first meeting, a game that was called after seven due to the World Baseball Classic’s mercy rule.
On Tuesday, Samurai Japan gave the Dutch a taste of what had been in store for them in those two lost innings.
Japan captain Shinnosuke Abe homered both times he stepped to the plate in an eight-run second, Hisayoshi Chono drove in five runs, and the Japanese staved off a late rally to end the second round on a high note with a 10-6 win over the Netherlands in front of a crowd of 30,301 in the Pool 1 finale at Tokyo Dome.
“We scored eight in the second inning, but we couldn’t score later on,” Japan manager Koji Yamamoto said. “That’s why the game became tough. Although we had a big inning early, we should’ve scored more.”
The game determined the semifinal seedings for the two teams, which had already qualified for the next round of the WBC.
Victory means Japan heads into the final round as the Pool 1 winner and will face the runner-up out of Pool 2 — which consists of the Dominican Republic, Italy, Puerto Rico and the United States — in the semifinals on March 17. As the runner-up in Pool 1, the Netherlands will face the Pool 2 winner on March 18.
“We have to clinch the semifinal,” Yamamoto said. “We will use all our effort. Also, a tougher opponent is coming. So we want to play like a Japanese team, and I hope we can be a finalist.”
The Dutch made Japan work for the top seed with a pair of runs in the seventh and three more in the eighth that made the score 8-6.
“We got behind early in the game, in the second inning,” Netherlands manager Hensley Meulens said. “They scored eight runs, but our guys never die. Just like the whole tournament so far, they battled back. We got good pitching to keep the game close.
“We got within two runs. We basically had the winning run at the plate in the eighth. Two guys on base, (Randolph) Oduber up there, and we had a chance to take the lead. He ended up striking out, but that’s how these guys play. They play hard.”
Both teams were scheduled to take charter flights to Arizona immediately after the game. Japan will play warmup games against the San Francisco Giants and Chicago Cubs before heading to San Francisco for the semifinals.
Japan struggled at the plate early in the WBC, but came to life against the Netherlands. The Japanese beat the Netherlands 16-4 in their first meeting on Sunday.
After recording just a pair of extra-base hits, doubles by Yoshio Itoi, in its first four games, Japan hit eight home runs, got six doubles, and scored 26 runs over the course of 16 innings against the Dutch.
Abe was lifted after two at-bats and finished a perfect 2-for-2. The Yomiuri Giants catcher, who was the designated hitter on Tuesday, led off the second with a solo home run, and added a three-run homer after Japan batted around. His two homers tied the WBC single-game record, held by 10 other players. Mexico’s Karim Garcia was the most recent to homer twice in a game, driving out a pair against Australia on March 11, 2009.
Yamamoto said his plan was to use the game as a way to give a few of his slumping players a chance to get things together, and Chono was one of the players Yamamoto was talking about.
The Giants outfielder, who entered the game 2-for-12 in the WBC, was placed at the top of the order and finished 2-for-5 with a three-run double and two-run single.
Nobuhiro Matsuda also drove in a run, hitting an RBI single in the second.
Kenji Otonari picked up the win after striking out six in three innings of work.
Japan’s Takashi Toritani led off the first meeting between the teams with a home run, and the Netherlands’ Andrelton Simmons returned the favor with a solo shot to begin the game.
Japan then put up eight in the bottom of the second to race out to an 8-1 lead.
Xander Bogaerts hit an RBI single for the Netherlands in the seventh and Oduber drove a run in on a sacrifice fly. The Dutch added another run in the eighth, on a Curt Smith groundout, and Kalian Sams and Quintin De Cuba hit RBI singles later in the frame to make the score 8-6.