FUKUOKA – Tomoyuki Sugano pitched four scoreless innings to set the tone as the Japan national team rebounded from a first-game loss and claimed a 9-1 victory over the Taiwanese All-Stars in an exhibition game on Wednesday.
A day after dropping the opener of a two-game series 8-5, it was Samurai Japan who got on the scoreboard first at Yafuoku Dome when Tokyo Yakult Swallows infielder Tetsuto Yamada led off the game with a homer off Cheng Kai-wen.
With one out and runners in scoring position on back-to-back stolen bases in the top of the fifth, the second run was scored when Yoshitomo Tsutsugo (Yokohama BayStars) reached safely on a first baseman error, and Sho Nakata (Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters) extended the lead 3-0 with a sacrifice fly.
Tsutsugo also hit a bases-loaded two-run single in a four-run sixth, getting the crowd of 25,521 on its feet.
On the mound, Ayumu Ishikawa (Chiba Lotte Marines), who replaced Sugano (Yomiuri Giants) in the fifth, struck out six and held Taiwan to just two hits until he yielded a two-out RBI double to Chen Chien-hsien, who went 3-for-4, in the seventh.
The Taiwanese All-Star team, comprised of members who are not on the World Baseball Classic roster, recorded three errors while its shaky bullpen issued a total of seven walks.
Two-time WBC champion Japan will be joined by Norichika Aoki, the sole major leaguer on the roster, on Friday when the team plays a warm-up game against the Hanshin Tigers at Kyocera Dome in Osaka. Another game against the Orix Buffaloes is scheduled for Sunday.
The WBC begins on March 6 with South Korea facing Israel at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul. Japan’s first game is on March 7 against Cuba at Tokyo Dome.
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