Team USA remains alive in the World Baseball Classic thanks to some timely hitting from Alex Rodriguez and some help from the umpire.
Alex Rodriguez came through with the winning hit for the United States after Japan appeared to get the short end of a controversial call. Rodriguez hit a bases-loaded, two-out single in the ninth Sunday to give Team USA a 4-3 victory in the opener of Round 2 in the inaugural World Baseball Classic. Vernon Wells opened the ninth with his third hit, and Randy Winn sacrificed, but reached first when second baseman Tsuyoshi Nishioka drew an error for coming off the base while catching third baseman Akinori Iwamura’s throw.
Loser Kyuji Fujikawa threw out Wells at third on Michael Young’s attempted sacrifice, and Derek Jeter was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Ken Griffey struck out before Rodriguez appeared to be jammed on a 1-1 pitch, but his grounder got past Fujikawa and Nishioka’s sliding attempt behind second was unsuccessful. The run was unearned because of Nishioka’s error. Rodriguez went 2-for-5, making him 7-of-14 in the Classic.
An announced crowd of 32,896 attended the opener of Round 2. Mexico and South Korea were scheduled to meet later Sunday at Angel Stadium, where single games will be played Monday through Thursday to complete the second round.
Japan appeared to take a 4-3 lead off Joe Nathan in the eighth when Iwamura flied to left with one out and the bases loaded. Nishioka beat Winn’s throw home, but umpire Neil Poulton ruled Nishioka left the base before the catch was made. It didn’t seem that way on the television replay, and manager Sadaharu Oh argued to no avail.
Japan loaded the bases in the ninth on three walks before winner Brad Lidge, Team USA’s sixth pitcher, struck out Hiyoshi Tamura to end the inning.
The fans began a “USA! USA!” chant for the first time in the game with one out and one on in the sixth, and Derrek Lee responded a few pitches later by hitting a 3-1 delivery from Naoyuki Shimizu over the left-center field fence to tie the game 3-3.
Dontrelle Willis will start Monday night when Team USA faces South Korea, and Roger Clemens is scheduled to pitch Thursday for the Americans against Mexico.
The WBC semifinals will be played Saturday in San Diego, where the winners will meet for the championship of the inaugural Classic two days later.
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