FUKUOKA - Japan suffered a 6-5 loss against Taiwan in an international friendly Wednesday, two days before Samurai Japan takes on a team of major league all-stars.
With both teams struggling to get a hit, Taiwan came alive first by breaking a scoreless tie in the fifth inning. Overall, Taiwan out-hit Japan 11-5 despite a late rally sparked by Tetsuto Yamada.
“We organized the starting members in order to give priority to players who have been away from the game,” Japan manager Atsunori Inaba said.
“Over time, they were able to ramp up their batting and (in the ninth inning) got five runs. I think that (momentum) will carry over to the next game.”
Wednesday’s match was the first of two warm-up games before Japan takes on a major league all-star team skippered by former New York Yankee slugger Don Mattingly.
The six-game series, which starts Friday, is considered an important test ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, where baseball will return to the program for the first time since 2004, the year Japan took bronze. Japan’s best Olympic result was silver in 1996.
On Thursday, the Yomiuri Giants play the major leaguers at Tokyo Dome. It will be the Central League club’s first game under third-time returning skipper Tatsunori Hara, who led Japan to their second and last World Baseball Classic title in 2009.
Against Taiwan, Japan debutant Shotaro Kasahara fanned two over the first two innings, and left-hander Haruhiro Hamaguchi followed up with two hitless innings.
Yuta Iwasada took the mound in the fifth and got into a one-out jam after giving up two singles and putting runners on first and third.
Kuo Yung-wei and Chen Chieh-hsien capitalized with back-to-back RBI singles, and Lan Yin-lun blasted a three-run homer over the left field wall at Yafuoku Dome for a 5-0 lead. Yuhei Takanashi gave up a solo home run to Chen Chieh-hsien in the eighth.
Chiang Chen-yen and four Taiwanese pitchers combined for seven strikeouts over eight scoreless innings before Yamada’s RBI single in the ninth put Japan on the board.
Chen Yun-wen got into a one-out bases-loaded pickle after yielding a single to designated hitter Yuki Yanagita and issuing a walk to Kazuma Okamoto.
After pinch hitter Takuya Kai struck out, a fielding error on Seiji Uebayashi’s grounder added Japan’s third run. Kazuki Tanaka drew a walk to make it 6-3 and keep the bases loaded.
Cheng Kai-wen replaced Chen Yun-wen and immediately gave up two-run RBI single to Shuta Tonosaki, but Kosuke Tanaka, who led off the inning with a double, struck out to end the game with runners on the corners.