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WORLD BASEBALL CLASSIC

Japan defeats China, 4-0, in opening game

Solid pitching and a two-run homer enable the defending champion to beat its much-improved opponent.

March 06, 2009|Associated Press

TOKYO -- Ichiro Suzuki went hitless Thursday, yet Japan had enough offense for a 4-0 win over China in the opening game of the World Baseball Classic.

The defending WBC champions got solid pitching from starter Yu Darvish and a two-run homer from cleanup hitter Shuichi Murata in the third inning to defeat China's much-improved team.

"In my first at-bat I didn't get a hit, so I was just trying to get the runner in," Murata said. "I hit a home run in my first game, so that should give me some confidence for the rest of the tournament."

Playing before a near-capacity crowd of 43,428 at Tokyo Dome, Japan took a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the third. Norichika Aoki hit a run-scoring single to center field before Murata connected on a two-run homer to left field off China starter Li Chenhao.

Japan widened its lead to 4-0 in the sixth when Kosuke Fukudome came home on a balk by reliever Sun Guogiang.

Ichiro's struggles are a concern for Japan. Ichiro, who was three for 23 in exhibition games leading up to the tournament, went 0 for 5.

"Ichiro can cause havoc if he gets on base and our pitchers were so focused on keeping him off base," China Manager Terry Collins said.

Darvish, a 22-year-old right-hander, struck out three and didn't give up a hit over four innings.

South Korea faces Chinese Taipei today, with the winner taking on Japan on Saturday.

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