Wednesday is the final Pool B practice day at Tokyo Dome ahead of Thursday’s openers, when South Korea will play Australia in the afternoon, while Japan will take on China in the evening.
Both Japan and South Korea got much-needed morale boosts in Tuesday’s final warm-ups in Osaka.
After losing 4-2 to the Orix Buffaloes and making three errors on Monday, the South Koreans beat the Hanshin Tigers 7-4 before moving to Tokyo.
The big news for Japan in a 9-1 hammering of the Buffaloes was that two of their struggling power hitters, 2022 Central League Triple Crown winner Munetaka Murakami and three-time Pacific League home run leader Hotaka Yamakawa, each homered. Masataka Yoshida also drove in four runs, while Kensuke Kondo, for the second straight game, walked twice and doubled.
Murakami said he was hacked off about being dropped to sixth in the Japan order, manager Hideki Kuriyama having kept his top three of Lars Nootbaar, Kondo and Shohei Ohtani in place with Yoshida taking over in No. 4.
“I was frankly annoyed. I really wanted to be the cleanup hitter on this great team,” he said after the game. “But the manager is trying different combinations and looks, and my role is to do my job, prepare and do what I’m asked to do.
“Little by little, my feel for my swing has been coming back. We’ve got practice tomorrow and a game on Monday, and with that one home run I feel like my preparations are about complete.”
“I was able to put a good swing on the pitch I got, and that was the product of a day-by-day trial-and-error process — in the way I shift my weight, and how I wait for the ball — that’s led to a better feel since the start of March.
Ohtani singled and walked before Yamakawa pinch-hit for him and singled in Kondo in the fourth before homering in the eighth.
Three non-roster players from their designated pitchers pool combined to allow one run over eight inning. Yuki Udagawa, the lone rostered Samurai Japan player, worked an inning of relief against his Pacific League club.
“My hope is that we could avoid losing a one-sided game,” Orix manager Satoshi Nakajima said. “But one doesn’t always get what one wishes for.”