Japan busts out in rout of Australia


A day after outplaying Japan in a tough loss, Australia cracked in a 10-3 loss in their World Baseball Classic warmup game at Kyocera Dome on Sunday.

Kazuo Matsui of the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles brought Japan from behind with a three-run triple and plated four runs as Japan scored five unearned runs against an Australia side that made four errors.

Japan exploited some poor control from Australia’s Ryan Rowland-Smith to score two runs in the first inning on RBI singles by Seiichi Uchikawa and Hisayoshi Chono.

The Yomiuri Giants’ Hayato Sakamoto drew a leadoff walk and was sacrificed to second, from where the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks’ Uchikawa drove him home to break the ice. Uchikawa stole second with two outs and the Giants’ Chono singled him home.

In the third, a pair of singles set Japan up for another score, but Uchikawa was thrown out trying to score from third on a strike from right fielder Corey Adamson that ended the inning.

Japan starter Kenta Maeda, who had been in poor form since Japan’s training camp began on Feb. 15, retired the side with ease in the first. The Hiroshima Carp hurler, who felt discomfort in his shoulder this spring and had no velocity on his fastball seven days earlier, had most of his velocity back, but did not bring his control. In the third, the right-hander walked the first two batters he faced, and Hughes made him pay with a two-run shot.

Maeda allowed two runs on two hits and two walks. He struck out three.

Japan, however, got all three runs back in the top of the fourth on Matsui’s bases-loaded, two-out triple. Sho Nakata of the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters and Katsuya Kakunaka of the Chiba Lotte Marines set the table, and a two-out throwing error prolonged the inning for Matsui. The only player on the Japan roster with major league experience, the switch-hitting Matsui, drilled a pitch from Ryan Searle into the right-field corner to make it 5-3.

“The guys gave me a great situation to hit in. I just wanted to get my kind of swing on the ball, and I hit it square,” Matsui said.

Giants right-hander Hirokazu Sawamura, one of the bright lights in the Japan camp, gave up a leadoff single to former Carp outfielder Justin Huber and loaded the bases with no outs. Sawamura, however, struck out the next batter. After a front-row fan used his height advantage to snag a foul ball and rob first baseman Nakata of a catch, Sawamura induced a 5-4-3, inning-ending double play.

Overall, Sawamura worked 2⅔ innings, allowing three hits and a walk. He struck out three.

Japan’s next warmup game will be at Kyocera Dome on Tuesday night against the Central League’s Hanshin Tigers. Brazil, which will play Japan in the Pool A WBC opener on March 2, will play the Pacific League’s Orix Buffaloes at the same venue earlier in the day.

On Tuesday, Orix and Hanshin will play the other Pool A nations, with the Buffaloes playing China in the afternoon and the Tigers taking on Cuba in the evening.

Australia will travel to Taiwan, where it will play in Pool B along with South Korea, the Netherlands and Taiwan.