Japan roughs up Giants’ Petit in 6-3 win

Japan manager Koji Yamamoto knows how difficult it will be for

his country to win a third straight World Baseball Classic.

He feels his squad got off to a good start in its preparations

for the semifinals.

Fighting through jet lag, Japan easily beat the San Francisco

Giants 6-3 in an exhibition game Thursday.

Power-hitting first baseman Sho Nakata had three hits, and

second baseman Takashi Toritani added two hits and two RBIs. Four

of Japan’s runs came against Giants starting pitcher Yusmeiro

Petit, including three in the second inning when Toritani had a

two-run double.

”It is not easy to win back-to-back. We’re going for our third

straight, and there is a lot of pressure on our backs,” Yamamoto

said through a translator. ”Our goal was to come here to the

United States. Once we get here, anything can happen.

”We made good adjustments today (to the new, outdoor

environment), especially our pitchers. I think we are in a good

situation now,” he said. ”I think we are on track.”

Japan will play another exhibition game on Friday against the

Chicago Cubs in Mesa, before heading trip to AT&T Park in San

Francisco, where they will face the Pool 2 runner-up (either the

United States, Dominican Republic or Puerto Rico) on Sunday


Team Japan ace Masahiro Tanaka allowed a run and three hits and

struck out three in his two-inning appearance, and eight pitchers

combined to allow five hits and strike out 10.

The Giants didn’t field their best lineup, starting only five

regulars, four of whom exited after two at-bats. But manager Bruce

Bochy was impressed with Japan.

”They played well, they swung the bats well, they pitched

well,” Bochy said. ”They played a good ballgame today. They

certainly outplayed us.”

Kenta Maeda, who did not pitch on Thursday against the Giants,

is scheduled to start Sunday. The 24-year-old right-hander was 14-7

with a 1.53 ERA for Hiroshima in 2012, and led the league in wins,

strikeouts and ERA.

Tanaka, who was heavily scouted on Thursday, is lined up to

start the WBC title game on Tuesday. The 24-year-old right-hander

led the Japanese Pacific League with 19 wins and a 1.27 ERA in

2011, and followed that with a 10-4 record and a 1.87 ERA in 2012

for Rakuten. There already is talk that his contract could be

posted for MLB teams to bid on by next winter.

Excellent pitching is nothing new from Team Japan, who won the

last two classics in San Diego and Los Angeles behind Daisuke

Matsuzaka and Yu Darvish, both of whom later landed big contracts

from big league teams.

But the current Team Japan differs in two areas from its

championship predecessors: The only player with any major league

experience is 37-year-old infielder Kaz Matsui. And while Japan’s

WBC numbers have been solid so far, offense could be a problem when

facing staffs of the Team USA and the Dominican Republic.

”Yes, of course it would be more meaningful (to win a third

title without MLB players),” Yamamoto said. ”You see these guys

growing with more confidence, so I think this is motivating these

kids right now.

”We’re not worried too much about who’s coming up (in San

Francisco),” he said. ”We try to stay focused on our team.”