Japan 6


Cuba 0


4:00 PM ET, March 15, 2009

123456789 R H E
JPN 003110001 6 12 2
CUB 000000000 0 8 0
W:D. Matsuzaka (2-0)
L:A. Chapman (0-1)

Dice-K, Japan silence Cuba bats in victory

Associated Press

SAN DIEGO -- Daisuke Matsuzaka is turning the World Baseball Classic into his personal showcase again.

Arangure: No Dice

Cuba couldn't handle Daisuke Matsuzaka and is struggling to handle a shutout at the World Baseball Classic, writes Jorge Arangure Jr. Story

Pitching in the same ballpark where he led his country to the inaugural WBC title three years ago, the Boston Red Sox ace was brilliant in silencing Cuba's previously undefeated big boppers as Japan opened the second round with a 6-0 win Sunday.

How OK is Dice-K with the WBC? Try 5-0 in five starts. He's 2-0 in this edition after going 3-0 in 2006, when he was selected MVP after leading Japan to a 10-6 victory over Cuba in the championship game at Petco Park.

Matsuzaka was about as relaxed -- and dominant -- as a pitcher can be in mid-March.

"I knew Cuba was a good team, but particularly there was nothing I was too worried about," Matsuzaka said through a translator. "While I was doing the warming up, did I look so fierce? I thought I had a smile on my face, did I not?"

He should have.

The right-hander with the slow-motion windup and array of effective pitches held Cuba to five singles in six innings while striking out eight and walking none.

Fast Facts

• Daisuke Matsuzaka pitched six scoreless innings and struck out eight batters with zero walks as Japan handed Cuba its first loss of this year's tournament. He's 5-0 all-time in WBC play.

• In Matsuzaka's 61 career MLB starts, he's never had a final line of at least six scoreless innings with zero walks and at least eight strikeouts.

• This was the first time the Cubans have been shut out in 12 games at the World Baseball Classic.

-- ESPN research

His first five strikeout victims all went down looking.

"It is not very often that this happens to us, but sometimes it does happen," Cuban manager Higinio Velez said. "The guys know that this could happen, and they do prepare for this. There are great pitchers that can do this.

"We faced a wonderful pitcher today, and he did not face an unknown at all. It's a pitcher that we respect quite a bit."

Cuba came in with 11 home runs, all hit at high altitude in Mexico City in the first round, when it went 3-0 to win Pool B. Seven of Cuba's eight hits Sunday were singles. Frederich Cepeda had three hits, including a double.

Matsuzaka got a nice ovation from Japanese fans and handshakes from teammates as he approached the dugout after striking out Yosvani Peraza to end the sixth. He threw 86 pitches. There's an 85-pitch limit in the second round, unless a pitcher needs more to complete a batter's plate appearance.

It was Japan's second shutout in this WBC. It beat China 4-0 in the first-round opener, with Yu Darvish getting the win.

Dice-K also won at Petco Park with the Red Sox in 2007, beating Greg Maddux and the San Diego Padres 2-1.

Cuba will play an elimination game Monday night against the loser of Sunday night's matchup between Mexico and South Korea. Japan will play Tuesday night against the Mexico-South Korea winner for a spot in the WBC semifinals next weekend in Los Angeles.

"I think that this is a game that was not good enough for the wonderful rivals that faced each other," Velez said. "It was quite a difficult game."

While Dice-K was cooling off the Cuban bats, the Japanese got off to a shaky start offensively, getting two runners thrown out on the basepaths in the second inning.

They broke through in the third, though, scoring three runs on five hits and chasing Cuban starter Aroldis Chapman. The first four Japanese batters reached against Chapman, although the pitcher fielded Ichiro Suzuki's bunt and forced Kenji Johjima at third.

Yasuyuki Kataoka's single loaded the bases and chased Chapman. Akinori Iwamura scored on Norberto Gonzalez's wild pitch, Norichika Aoki singled in Suzuki, and Shuichi Murata hit a sacrifice fly.

Suzuki drove in a run with a grounder in the fourth and Seiichi Uchikawa hit an RBI single in the fifth. Murata singled home a run in the ninth.

Chapman (0-1) allowed three runs and three hits in 2 1-3 innings, walked three and struck out one.

"Maybe he felt the pressure," Velez said. "He wasn't on his best game."

The Cubans didn't like plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt's strike zone. After Wendelstedt called a ball with Iwamura batting in the fourth inning, the umpire turned toward the Cuban dugout and made a hand gesture as if telling someone to be quiet. One of the Cuban coaches made a motion back.

Petco Park was less than half full with an announced crowd of 20,179.


Game Information

Game Time: 3:33
Weather: 58 degrees, sunny
Wind: 5 mph
Umpires: Home Plate - Hunter Wendelstedt, First Base - Carlos Rey, Second Base - Bill Miller, Third Base - Willie Rodriguez