Five early runs by Japan in the first three innings put Taiwan in a hole too deep to overcome as it dropped a 14-3 decision after seven innings in Game 2 of the 2006 World Baseball Classic at the Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, Japan, last night.
The loss virtually eliminated Taiwan, now 0-2, from advancing to the next round as they head into today's third and final game of the Asian tournament against China.
Taiwanese starter Hsu Chu-jien allowed three first-inning runs on one deadly swing by Japanese left-fielder Hitoshi Tamura that sent the ball over the left field wall for a three-run blast.
After Japan put up another run in the second inning on a sacrifice fly by center-fielder Kosuke Fukudome, Taiwan finally got on the board on a balk issued by Japanese starter Daisuke Matsuzaka that advanced the runner on third for Taiwan's first run of the tournament.
Japan then erupted for six decisive runs on five hits, three walks, and a balk by reliever Tseng Sung-wei in the top of the fifth to blow the game wide open at 11-1.
Trailing 12-1, Taiwan finally managed to score a pair of runs on its own in the bottom of the sixth with back-to-back singles by center-fielder Hsieh Jia-shien and shortstop Hu Jin-lung off Japanese reliever Hiroyuki Kobayashi to make it 12-3.
Japan would answer with two more runs in the top of the seventh against Taiwan's Kuo Hong-chih, the only current Major League pitcher on its staff (Los Angeles Dodgers), when a double by Japan's Nobuhiko Matsunaka and a subsequent wild pitch by Taiwanese reliever Yang Jien-fu brought home two more runners to make it 14-3.
A scoreless seventh by the Taiwanese hitters, despite right fielder Chang Jien-ming's clean double off Japan's Kyuji Fujikawa made it 14-3 after seven complete innings of play, inducing the mercy rule that ended the game two innings early.
Matsuzaka was credited with the win for his four innings of one-run ball on three scattered singles and as many strikeouts, while his counterpart Hsu was tagged with the loss for surrendering the three first-inning runs in the game.
As for the winless Taiwanese, the expected loss came with a steep price tag of the mercy rule that might have caused some embarrassment as four different Japanese hitters had two-hit games off eight Taiwanese pitchers in the 15-hit slugfest, clearly demonstrating the huge gap that still exists in the overall level of play between the two countries.