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March 27, 2017 7:50

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16:30 19 March 2017

Baseball: U.S. earns WBC semifinal rematch with Japan

SAN DIEGO, California, March 19, Kyodo

Japan's opponent in the World Baseball Classic semifinals will be the United States after the tournament hosts eliminated the defending champion Dominican Republic 6-3 on Saturday.

Behind Giancarlo Stanton's tiebreaking two-run shot in the fourth inning and a home run-saving catch by Adam Jones in the seventh, the U.S. grabbed the remaining and second ticket from Pool F to the semifinals. Puerto Rico won the group with three wins in as many games after blowing away Venezuela 13-2 earlier.

The United States, which is aiming to reach its first WBC final, will play Pool E winner Japan on Tuesday at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. Puerto Rico will face the Netherlands, the runner-up in Pool E.

The final is Wednesday.

It will be the second time the U.S. and Samurai Japan have met in a WBC semifinal at Dodger Stadium. On March 22, 2009, the Japanese came from behind to knock off the tournament hosts 9-4 en route to their second championship.

The U.S. tagged Dominican starter Ervin Santana for four runs in 3-2/3 innings. The Dominicans closed within a run in the bottom of the seventh, when Robinson Cano's solo homer made it 4-3. But the U.S. pulled away in the eighth, when Andrew McCutchen doubled home Christian Yelich and Eric Hosmer.

Japan on Saturday warmed up for the coming rematch by playing the Chicago Cubs in an exhibition in Mesa, Arizona, a 6-4 loss to the World Series champions.

Ryosuke Kikuchi homered in the first for Japan off John Lackey, but Shintaro Fujinami, who struck out five but walked four, coughed up three runs over the first four innings.

The Cubs took three more runs off Hirotoshi Masui and Yuki Matsui in the fifth and sixth, respectively. Naoki Miyanishi and Takahiro Norimoto also took the mound for Japan, with Norimoto getting three strikeouts on nine swings and misses.

"Ever since the (second-round) game against the Netherlands, I've had a good feel for my forkball," Norimoto said. "My slider was also good."

Yoshitomo Tsutsugo had a pair of singles up the middle.

Japan skipper Hiroki Kokubo dismissed suggestions his pitchers struggled with the major league balls that can slip in the drier air in the States.

"I didn't notice anything strangely different compared to when we were at Tokyo Dome," Kokubo said. "Miyanishi and Norimoto looked good."

On Sunday, Samurai Japan plays its final warm-up game in Arizona against the Los Angeles Dodgers.




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