Japan beats Israel to reach championship round of WBC

TOKYO -- Yoshitomo Tsutsugo sparked a five-run sixth inning with a solo home run to lead Japan over Israel 8-3 Wednesday and into the championship round of the World Baseball Classic.

With a 6-0 record through the first two rounds, two-time champion Japan advances from Pool E along with the Netherlands, which beat Cuba 14-1 at the Tokyo Dome on Wednesday. Israel and Cuba were eliminated.

Tsutsugo connected off Israel reliever Dylan Axelrod with a blast to deep center field. Nobuhiro Matsuda doubled in a run to make it 2-0, and Seiji Kobayashi, Nori Aoki and Ryosuke Kikuchi all added RBI hits to widen the lead.

"Our pitchers were doing a great job, so I wanted to do something to contribute in that situation," Tsutsugo said.

Seiichi Uchikawa hit a double down the third-base line to drive in two more runs in the eighth, and Matsuda singled in the final run to complete the rout.

Ike Davis broke the shutout bid with a single in the top of the ninth that scored Sam Fuld from second, and Ryan Lavarnway doubled in two more runs before Kazuhisa Makita retired the side in the ninth.

Israel was made up almost entirely of Jewish-American players with major- and minor league experience.

Israel won its first four games of the tournament but could not match experienced baseball powers like Japan and the Netherlands in the second round. The Netherlands beat Israel 12-2 in eight innings on Monday.

In Wednesday's first game, between the Netherlands and Cuba, former major leaguer Wladimir Balentien homered twice for the Netherlands.

Balentien, who plays in Japan for the Yakult Swallows, hit a three-run homer in the first inning and added a solo blast in the third as the Netherlands jumped out to a 7-0 lead.

"We knew this was a needed game, so I was focused on every at-bat," Balentien said. "I was happy to get a chance to put us on the board early with those home runs."

Netherlands' Yurendell Decaster drove in two runs on a single to right in the fourth. The Netherlands scored three more runs in that inning to put the game out of reach.

Netherlands starter Diegomar Markwell picked up the win after holding Cuba to one run on four hits over six innings.

Cuba came to the WBC with a young team and went 0-3 in the second round.

"The Netherlands crushed us, and we were unable to come back," Cuba manager Carlos Marti said. "Cuba is a very young team, so this was a good experience, and we have to prepare for the future."

The March 20-22 championship round will be held at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. It consists of two semifinal games and the winner-take-all championship game.
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