San Diego, CA (Sports Network) - Hisashi Iwakuma and Toshiya Sugiuchi combined on a five-hit shutout, and defending champion Japan advanced to the semifinals of the World Baseball Classic with a 5-0 triumph over Cuba at Petco Park.
The loss eliminates Cuba, ending an incredible run for the country in international play. In the last 50 events, Cuba won 42 times and finished second on eight other occasions.
Norichika Aoki had four hits, including a pair of RBI singles, for Japan, which will play South Korea on Thursday to decide the winner of Pool 1. The winner of Thursday's game will play the United States, runners-up in Pool 2, on Sunday. The loser on Thursday will play Venezuela, the victor of Pool 2, in the semifinals on Saturday at Dodger Stadium.
Ichiro Suzuki went 2-for-5 and scored once.
It marked the second time in second-round play Japan blanked Cuba, scoring a 6-0 win on Sunday. Korea put the Japanese squad on the brink of elimination on Tuesday, defeating them, 4-1, but Japan came through by dominating the rematch of the 2006 title game on Wednesday in foggy conditions at Petco Park thanks to precision pitching. Iwakuma gave up five hits, walked a batter and had two strikeouts over six innings to get the win. Sugiuchi had four strikeouts over the final three frames to get the save.
Righty Yuneski Maya allowed four hits and two unearned runs over 3 2/3 innings to suffer the loss for Cuba, which fell to South Korea in the gold medal game at the Olympics last August.
Cuba fell behind in the fourth inning thanks to a dropped fly ball. Aoki singled with one out and Atsunori Inaba followed with a double. Shuichi Murata then flew out to center fielder Yoennis Cespedes, but he dropped the ball when Michihiro Ogasawara sent an offering his way on the next at-bat. Both runners scored for a 2-0 margin.
Akinori Iwamura and Hiroyuki Nakajima walked in the fifth before Aoki singled off reliever Ismel Jimenez to drive in Japan's third run.
Iwamura walked leading off the seventh and scored later in the inning on Nakajima's sacrifice fly to left field.
Suzuki tripled with one out in the ninth before coming to plate on Aoki's base hit to right.
03/19 03:15:49 ET