The U.S. ended its run in the World Baseball Classic with a 9-4 thumping at the hands of defending champion Japan in Los Angeles last night. Japan will now take on South Korea, for the fifth time in this tournament, to see who will be crowned champion.
Brian Roberts led off the game with a home run, but Japan was not to be denied. They came from 2-1 behind in the fourth and scored five runs off losing pitcher Roy Oswalt, and coasted into a victory. The U.S. attempted a comeback in the eighth, scoring twice to make it 6-4. But Derek Jeter's error in the bottom of the inning (see what I get for rooting for him?) opened the door for three Japan insurance runs and they put the game away.
Daisuke Matsuzaka wasn't brilliant, but went 4 2/3 inings, allowing two runs and got the win. He is now a staggering 6-0 in six WBC starts in two tournaments. Red Sox fans can now breathe easier as the next time he will pitch will be in a Red Sox uniform.
As I watched the game last night, it's become more apparent to me that this tournament needs to played in November and not March. The quality of the game overall would be better AFTER the MLB season. And teams would be far less paranoid about letting players play in it. The U.S. simply had too many handcuffs on them, with pitch counts and such. I'm still a fan of the WBC as I like the concept of a World Cup-like tournament. And playing it in July is simply unworkable, as MLB won't shorten the season to accomodate it.
But of course, the MLB won't allow the WBC to happen in November, as they fear it will be overshadowed by the NFL season. The U.S. did a better accounting of themselves this time around than in 2006, as the enthusiasm by the players was very strong (the fans on the other hand, leave a lot more to be desired). Take nothing away from South Korea or Japan, as they both deserve to playing for the crown, but the U.S. will continue to be at a disadvantage if they continue to play the WBC in March. The spectre of the upcoming MLB season will continue to dog their chances of ever winning it all.