Korea vs. Japan in the 2023 World Baseball Classic

TOKYO — On Friday night, in a crowded and noisy Tokyo Dome, the Korean team discovered there was no pitcher — and no pitching streak — that could quiet the Japanese bats. He used 10 outstanding pitchers, and no arm, fastball, or breaking pitch could solve Japan’s lineup conundrum.

The Japanese roster has always looked like one of the toughest in the World Baseball Classic tournament. From one through nine, there’s no break — from leadoff hitter Lars Nootbaar, to the one and only Shohei Ohtani, to their six-hole hitter Kazuma Okamoto, who has five straight 30-plus homer seasons.

In their 13-4 win over Korea, Japan’s attacking dominance couldn’t have been more evident.

Things have at least started well for Korea. In a surprising twist, he turned to former Cardinals pitcher Kwang-Hyun Kim to start the game after weeks of hinting he would pitch in relief. But after losing to Australia, 8-7, on Thursday afternoon, this rivalry game has become a must-do affair.

Korea held a 3-0 lead late in the third, but that’s when Samurai Japan woke up. The home side secured a fourth in third, added two more in fifth, lost five in sixth and added two more in 7th.

Nootbaar went 2 for 4 and drove in a race. Kensuke Kondoh made up for an error early in the game with two hits, a home run and three RBIs.

“My pitch sailed and that led to their run in the previous inning, so I wanted to make it up,” Kondoh said of his third-inning error. “I’m glad I was able to take advantage of the opportunity that my teammates had created.”

Red Sox free agent signing Masataka Yoshida displayed a whip-like swing and went 3-for-3 with five RBIs, while Ohtani added two hits, an RBI and two walks.

This kind of complete decimation of their rival will only serve to bolster the bona fides of the Japanese Championship – and likely terrify any pitchers who have to watch the game tape and figure out a game plan ahead.

For Korea, that almost certainly means it will be their third straight tournament that ends in the first round. A roster featuring two major leaguers at the top of the roster, superstar Jung-Hoo Lee in center field, and what was thought to be a young and promising rotation was seen as a near-lockdown for the quarterfinals – if not the semi-finals and beyond in Miami.

Japan next takes on the Czech Republic (5 a.m. ET FS1), who are coming off their first-ever World Baseball Classic win — Saturday. Korea, meanwhile, will have time to ruminate on the loss before they also face the Czech team on Sunday (10 p.m. ET Saturday FS1).

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