Thursday, March 16, 2006

Japan vs. Korea II: Oh’s Revenge

The dog days of the WBC are upon us now. With games deciding the Final Four in action, tensions are high and every run scored is like a nail in some teams coffin. The featured games of the day were a matchup between the reigning international giants, Cuba, and the strong Puerto Rican contingent, led by Bernie Williams. The second game of the evening featured a rematch of the Asian Round final, Korea versus Japan.

With the controversy surrounding the Japan/US game still hanging in the air, Japan knew they needed to win to advance. A win would guarantee as much, and in the process knock the US out of play. It was in Team Japan’s hands. Revenge on the Korean team AND revenge on the US team, all in one fell swoop.

People, here in Japan, have asked me my feelings about the US/Japan decision. They obviously haven’t read this blog. Shame! When I explain that I felt happy that the US won, but disgusted by the WAY they won, they shake their heads in resignation to the unhappy facts of the outcome. The news has shown “man on the street” interviews in New York recently, asking the same kinds of questions. Thankfully, the average New Yorker has shown the same kind of regret and disgust with the umpire’s decision as I feel. It restores my faith in my country’s sense of fairness.

No one at work has spoken of the situation in the last two days. I know they talk among themselves about the problem and the need for the Japanese team to run the table in order to advance. I know there’s an awareness of the task at hand, it’s just not my business. It’s just a “Japanese thing”. You wouldn’t understand.

What a contest it was. With the Japanese backs against the wall, and Korean pride as the only unbeaten team in the tournament at stake, a superb pitching duel emerged. The Koreans started Chan Ho Park of the San Diego Padres against Japanese pitcher Shunsuke Watanabe of Lotte. Watanabe put the Japanese team on his back and led them through six innings of 1 hit baseball. It was an effort worthy of high praise.

Japan missed a perfect scoring opportunity in the second inning, when Akinori Iwamura was thrown out at the plate. Korean catcher In Sung Cho fielded a wide throw and applied a perfect tag to keep the game scoreless. Iwamura was shaken up on the play and left the game.

Chan Ho Park was equally sharp and took a scoreless game 5 innings on 4 hit ball. The two natural rivals were carving out another classic, but the lengthy battle had to give way as pressure mounted for the Japanese team to get on the board. It wasn’t to be, as the Korean club scrapped out two runs in the top of the 8th inning to send the Japanese reeling. In a game this tight, and this important, a late rally often spells the end. The bullpen couldn’t save the day for Japan as Toshiya Sugiuchi put runners on second and third with a walk and a single, and Kyuji Fujikawa coughed up the game winning double to Kia Tigers centerfielder Beom Jong Lee, formerly of Chunichi and nicknamed the Korean Ichiro.

Japan rallied in the bottom of the ninth with a home run by Tsuyoshi Nishioka, and a single to keep hope alive. It was too little too late however as Samsung Lions reliever Seung Hwan Oh struck out the next two batters to end the game.

I wondered to myself about the reaction of my coworkers when they discovered the result of the game. I wondered how much they’d still be talking about America. Surely I would never hear their real feelings. It was only my keen hearing that helped me to catch the sense of their reaction to the loss. I heard two teachers 3 or 4 desks away saying:

“The Americans are laughing right now.”

“The situation is grave isn’t it.”

“We have a chance if America loses to Mexico tomorrow.”

“Hmmm. Right.>

For my part, I still feel badly about the controversy, but the time for revenge was today and it was in the hands of the Japanese players to deliver justice. As for tomorrow’s game, I’m behind the US team 100% and I hope they show some fight in eliminating Mexico and advancing to the semi-final round.

For Team Japan, it’s “Viva Mexico!!!


paik said...

you write well and you seem to know a bit too much about the japanese tendencies... it's so funny how they don't talk about some things.

but i smell an upset tomorrow and a rematch between the koreans and the japanese..

korean from korea

Cliff said...

From the Gamecast it looked like the final two Japanese batters just couldn't catch up with Oh's stuff, was that the case or did he get them with movement?

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