Japan-China: Yu Darvish Dazzles in WBC Opener

Jeffrey McDanielCorrespondent IMarch 5, 2009

Japan and China combined for just 10 hits, but a home run and a solid performance out of the Japanese bullpen allowed the defending World Baseball Classic champions to successfully defend their title with a 4-0 victory in the opener of the 2009 WBC in Tokyo.

In his much-anticipated international debut, Japan’s Yu Darvish was as good as advertised, tossing four innings of no-hit baseball and allowing just one base runner in the opener of the 2009 World Baseball Classic. 

Darvish also had three strikeouts, befuddling the Chinese hitters with a steady mix of fastballs and hard sliders.

Japan plated three runs in the third, helped along by a two-run homer off the bat of Shuichi Murata that sailed deep into the seats in left field.

The result could’ve been much worse if not for a few timely defensive plays turned by the Chinese infield. Japan stranded seven base runners.

Seattle right fielder Ichiro Suzuki went 0-5 but made a dazzling running catch on a sharply hit ball to the gap in right-center off the bat of Chu Fujia in the third to preserve the Darvish no-hitter.

The story of the night was the Japanese pitching staff.

In addition to Darvish’s dominant start, where he only threw 49 pitches and had a three-ball count to only two of the 12 hitters he faced, Japan’s bullpen carried the bulk of the load, scattering five hits and walking none.

The Chinese hitters struggled to get into a rhythm against a solid Japanese defense that turned two double plays to kill potential rallies.

To make matters worse, China didn’t get a single runner past first base.

Japan’s offense was led by Norichika Aoki, who went 2-4 with a single and a double. Aoki hit a hard line drive in the fourth that was speared by China’s first baseman, ending a potential big inning.

Next for Japan is the winner of tomorrow’s matchup between Korea and Chinese-Taipei.  China faces the loser of that game.

The United States opens play Saturday against Canada at the Rogers Centre in Toronto.