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Baseball: Champs Japan, Taiwan grab second WBC wins

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Reigning champions Japan beat China and Taiwan came from behind against the Netherlands as the two co-hosts neared round two of the World Baseball Classic with their second straight wins on Sunday.

Japan were easy 5-2 winners against China in Fukuoka, while in Taichung, Taiwan recovered from 0-3 down to storm past the Netherlands 8-3. Both teams have now won their first two pool games with just one left to play.

Powerful Cuba, the 2006 finalists, also opened their Pool A campaign with a comprehensive 5-2 defeat of Brazil, who sunk to their second loss after being beaten by Japan on Saturday.

In Taichung, Yang Dai-kang fired a two-run homer to round off Taiwan's victory over the Netherlands, stacked with players from the Dutch Antilles, who shocked 2009 runners-up South Korea on Saturday.

Taiwan gave the Netherlands three straight walks in the second inning, and the Dutchmen eventually capitalized on another walk and a hit by outfielder Kalian Sams to lead 3-0.

But Chang Chien-ming hit a single between the third and shortstop to give Taiwan one run in the bottom of the same inning, and they made it 5-3 in the fourth inning with one hit, one walk with full bases and two sacrifice flies.

Taiwan consolidated the victory with catcher Lin Hung-yu hitting a double to make it 6-3, and Yang's home run for 8-3.

Cuba were quiet until Erisbel Arruebarruena earned their first hit to send Jose Fernandez to third base in the fifth inning, before scoring the first run on Guillermo Heredia's grounder to shortstop, as Brazil missed a double play.

Outfielder Alexei Bell hit a single to the left field to make it 2-0. Pinch-hitter Raul Gonzalez made it 3-0 in the sixth inning and Arruebarruena added two more runs before Brazil managed to claw two back.

Brazilian fourth batter Daniel Matsumoto hit an infield single with the second and third bases occupied to pull one back before Reinaldo Sato welcomed a runner from the third base by hitting a grounder to the short stop.

In Sunday's later game, Kenta Maeda, starter for two-time defending champions Japan, shut out five innings and gave up only one single to become the winning pitcher.

"Our pitchers did their job really well today. We took a 1-0 lead and it was not enough. Then we took another four points. It was a very good game for us," said head coach Koji Yamamoto.

"I had worried about him (Maeda), but he is getting better and better each time he threw. He did very well today." Yamamoto added: "We are going to play Cuba next. We have more pitchers who are ready to go. We will do our best."

The top two teams in Pool A and Pool B will reach the second round in Tokyo, which will decide which two sides progress to the final games later this month in San Francisco.

hf/th

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130303/baseball-champs-japan-taiwan-grab-second-wbc-wins