U.S. catches break in win over Japan

Monday, March 13, 2006

A run was taken away from Japan in the U.S.'s 4-3 victory.

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Even the Americans figured they caught a break.

Alex Rodriguez hit a bases-loaded, two-out single in the ninth to give the United States a 4-3 victory over Japan in the opener of Round 2 in the inaugural World Baseball Classic after the losers appeared to be deprived of the go-ahead run.

It looked as though Japan broke a 3-3 tie against Joe Nathan in the eighth when Akinori Iwamura flied to left with one out and the bases loaded. Tsuyoshi Nishioka beat Randy Winn's throw home, and second base umpire Brian Knight ruled safe when Team USA appealed the play. But plate umpire Bob Davidson overruled the call following a brief discussion with the other umpires.

"The wrong umpire made the initial call," Davidson said in a statement issued afterward. "That's the plate umpire's call. I had it lined up. It's my call, and I had him leaving early and called him out."

Davidson is one of 22 major league umpires who lost their jobs in the 1999 labor dispute. He's now a minor league ump who fills in at the big-league level.

"It gave us a huge lift. I mean, it changes the game," said Team USA first baseman Derrek Lee, who hit a two-run homer in the sixth to tie the game. "You don't see a call like that overturned very often, so we definitely got a gift right there.

"But we'll take it, it worked out for us."

It didn't appear Nishioka left before Winn made the catch on the television replay, and Japan manager Sadaharu Oh argued to no avail.

"It's just unimaginable that this could have happened, or this did happen, in the U.S. where baseball is very famous and popular," Oh said through a translator. "And it's a pity that it was overruled."

Team USA manager Buck Martinez said he didn't know if he's ever had a call like that reversed.

"I know I've appealed a play once in Fenway on a very similar type of play, once in Seattle," he said. "That was a good feeling today to have that one go in our favor. I had a really good look at it. Everybody on the bench reacted the same way, which validates what I thought was happening."

Japan loaded the bases in the top of the ninth on three walks before winner Brad Lidge, Team USA's sixth pitcher, struck out Hiyoshi Tamura to end the inning.

Vernon Wells opened the bottom half with his third hit and Winn sacrificed, but reached first when second baseman 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 as Winn scored from third.

The run was unearned because of Nishioka's error. Rodriguez went 2-for-5, making him 7-of-14 in the Classic.

"It was the first opportunity of this sort that I had, and that was definitely good," he said. "I definitely felt very proud."

Chipper Jones also homered for the Americans and Ichiro Suzuki homered for Japan.

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.

The fans began a "USA! USA!" chant for the first time in the game with one out and one on in the sixth, and Lee responded a few pitches later by hitting a 3-1 delivery from Naoyuki Shimizu over the left-center field fence.

Shimizu was called twice for going to his mouth while on the mound -- an automatic ball -- shortly before Lee connected. The first came before a 2-1 pitch to Jones, who walked, and the second prior to the first pitch to Lee.

Suzuki, not known for his power, hit Jake Peavy's third pitch of the game into the right-field bleachers to give Japan a 1-0 lead.

Japan made it 3-0 in the second on a two-out, two-run single by Munenori Kawasaki, the No. 9 hitter in the lineup. Jones led off the bottom half by hitting a 3-1 pitch from Koji Uehara into the right-center field seats for his second WBC homer, making it 3-1.

"Derrek Lee's home run was the biggest blow of the game because we felt like if we could just get the game tied and turn it over to our bullpen, we would scratch out a run somewhere," Jones said. "The bullpen was a little shaky there in the eighth and ninth, but those guys bowed their necks and made pitches when they had to and we got the benefit of a call.

"It's a shame that that play is the one everybody's going to talk about, because it was a well-played game on both sides and both teams should be commended and applauded."

Peavy, who worked three scoreless innings in Team USA's 2-0 first-round victory over Mexico, gave up three runs and five hits in five innings. He used 67 pitches and settled down after a rocky start, retiring nine of his last 10 batters.

Uehara allowed seven hits and one run in five innings, using 75 pitches. The pitch count is up to 80 from 65 in the first round.

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.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: