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Japanese pundit praises Taiwanese team at World Baseball Classic

TOKYO--Japanese baseball commentator Kazuhiro Sasaki said Friday that Taiwan could have defeated Japan at the World Baseball Classic and was unfortunate to have fallen short.

Taiwan lost to Japan 4-3 in 10 innings after holding leads heading into the eighth and ninth innings, and Sasaki, who pitched professionally in both Japan and the United States, felt Taiwan cost itself the game when it failed to score an insurance run in the eighth after getting a runner on third with nobody out.

Taiwan held a 2-0 lead at the start of the eighth inning before Shinnosuke Abe and Hayato Sakamoto, who play for the Yomiuri Giants in the Nippon Professional Baseball league, delivered RBI singles to tie the game.

Taiwan responded with three consecutive hits to start the bottom of the inning to take a 3-2 lead and seemed poised to widen the margin with runners on first and third and nobody out. But it failed to get a second run home.

Japan took advantage in the top of the ninth, when Hirokazsu Ibata hit a two-out game-tying single off reliever Chen Hung-wen. It won the game in the 10th on Sho Nakata's sacrifice fly.

Asked about the moves made by Taiwan's manager Hsieh Chang-heng, Sasaki said he should have tried to sacrifice runners more, without giving any specific examples.

In fact, Taiwan tried a sacrifice bunt after Lin Yi-chuan led off the bottom of the ninth with a single, but Yang Dai-kang's attempt was caught in the air by Japanese pitcher Kazuhisa Makita, wasting an out.

Lin was later sacrificed to second but was left stranded.

Speaking of the performance by former New York Yankees pither Wang Chien-ming, who pitched six scoreless innings, Sasaki praised Wang's poise and said he pitched extremely well but felt Wang still needed to improve his velocity.

At a post-game press conference, both Hsieh and Wang could only say that everyone had done their best.

Wang said he found Japan had a strong team spirit and played as though it was unwilling to lose. “That put a lot of pressure on us,” he said.

Hsieh also had high praise for Wang. “He went six innings without giving up any runs,” Hsieh said. “I can't complain. It's the best result. Unfortunately we couldn't beat Japan, but all the players played as hard as they could.”

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