• Kyodo


Japan overcame a shaky start by Daisuke Matsuzaka with quality at-bats en route to an 11-2 victory over Australia in a World Baseball Classic exhibition game Wednesday at Kyocera Dome in Osaka.

The Boston Red Sox right-hander gave up two runs and five hits before being pulled with two outs in the second inning, but his teammates came right back to tie the game at two in the third, and scored five runs an inning later.

Two-time Central League batting champion Norichika Aoki hit a tiebreaking, two-run triple, followed by consecutive hits from Hiroyuki Nakajima, Ichiro Suzuki and Atsunori Inaba in the five-run fourth. Suzuki had two infield singles in five at-bats.

Japan also took advantage of sloppy defense by the Aussies, who committed six errors in the game, three in the third inning.

Matsuzaka, the MVP of the 2006 tournament, threw 38 pitches, striking out three and walking none.

“I had both positives and negatives tonight. I’ll try to make adjustments by my next outing,” Matsuzaka said.

Six relievers did not allow one hit the rest of the way for Japan. Toshiya Sugiuchi was particularly impressive, retiring all seven batters he faced, striking out the first five.

Japan pounded out 16 hits. Cleanup hitter Inaba continued to stay hot at the plate, going 3-for-5 with two RBIs.

Australian starter Damian Moss allowed two unearned runs in three innings. Grant Karlsen had a two-run double off Matsuzaka.

Defending WBC champion Japan won both games of the two-game series against Australia and will play two more warmup games this weekend, against the Seibu Lions and the Yomiuri Giants, before taking on China in the tournament opener on March 5 at Tokyo Dome.

The top two teams will advance to the second round in the United States from Pool A, which consists of Japan, Olympic champion South Korea, Taiwan and China.

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