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Ichiro leads Japan to another WBC title

Los Angeles, CA (Sports Network) - Already one of the best hitters in Major League Baseball, Ichiro Suzuki returned to his roots as a hero again as Japan repeated as World Baseball Classic champions.

Suzuki capped a four-hit night by lining a two-run single to center field in the 10th inning, and Japan successfully defended its crown from three years ago with a 5-3 win over Korea in the title game at Dodger Stadium.

Seiichi Uchikawa had three hits and scored twice, including the go-ahead run in the 10th, one inning after Korea tied the game on a single by Bum Ho Lee, but the reigning Olympic gold medal winners faltered in the next frame.

Suzuki, who moved to the United States in 2001 after playing nine years for the Orix Blue Wave in Japan's Pacific League and became an eight-time All-Star with the Seattle Mariners, delivered at the most crucial moment to cap an eight-pitch at-bat against Chang Yong Lim.

Before that, Uchikawa singled to right field, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, and Akinori Iwamura singled to put runners at the corners. Pinch-hitter Munenori Kawasaki popped out, but Korea allowed Iwamura to take second. Suzuki then lined a clean hit to center field. Japan loaded the bases later in the inning, but Kenji Johjima, Suzuki's Seattle teammate, struck out.

Yu Darvish, who pitched two innings for the win, walked Min-ho Kang to start the bottom of the 10th. Jeong Choi struck out and Yong-Kyu Lee flied out to center field. Darvish then fanned Keun-Woo Jeong to send the Japanese into celebration.

Hisashi Iwakuma threw the first 7 2/3 innings for Japan, giving up four hits and two runs, while logging six strikeouts. Jungkeun Bong tossed the first four-plus frames for Korea, surrendering six hits and an unearned run. Lim suffered the loss.

Japan outhit Korea, 15-5, but left 14 men on base, yet still managed to win before a WBC-record crowd of 54,846 fans.

Daisuke Matsuzaka won the MVP for a second straight time. The Red Sox hurler went 3-0 with a 2.45 ERA in three starts during the 2009 WBC. In 14 2/3 innings, he allowed four runs on 14 hits with five walks and 13 strikeouts

Shin-Soo Choo homered for Korea.

Japan, which defeated Cuba to claim the crown at the inaugural Classic in 2006, knocked the USA out in the semifinals Sunday with a 9-4 win and one night later needed to go extra innings.

Michihiro Ogasawara singled to right field in the top of the third inning to give Japan a 1-0 lead, but Japan wasted a bases-loaded chance later in the frame.

Choo homered to center field leading off the bottom of the fifth, but Japan went ahead in the seventh. Yasuyuki Kataoka led off with a single to left field and stole second. Suzuki put down a perfect soft bunt down the third base line for a hit and Hiroyuki Nakajima singled on a line drive to left field for the 2-1 lead. Korea, though, thwarted Japan's chance at more in the inning as Aoki flied out and Johjima grounded into a double play.

Japan added a run in the eighth. Uchikawa singled to start the frame. Korea then went to the bullpen and Hyunjin Ryu, but he gave up a ground-rule double to Astunori Inaba. Iwamura followed with a sacrifice fly to left.

Korea pulled within 3-2 in the bottom of the eighth. Bum Ho Lee doubled, went to third on a groundout and scored on pinch-hitter Dae Ho Lee's sacrifice fly to center field.

Darvish came on to pitch the bottom of the ninth and immediately fanned the first batter, but then walked Hyun-Soo Kim. Jong Wook Lee came on as a pinch- runner. Tae Kyun Kim walked and was replaced on the bases by Taek-Keun Lee. Choo then fished for a low ball and struck out, but Bum Ho Lee singled to left field for the tie.

Game Notes

Suzuki is now a combined 6-10 with two double, three RBI and three runs scored in two World Baseball Classic championship games...Bong went 2-0 with a 0.51 ERA over four games, three starts, in this WBC...Japan collected 92 hits throughout the 2009 Classic, 74 of which were singles...In nine games during the 2009 World Baseball Classic, Japan more than tripled the offensive output of its opposition, outscoring opponents 50-16.

03/24 02:23:53 ET


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