Justin Huber scored one Aussie run and drove in another
Osaka, JAPAN - The sweet sound of 40,000 screaming fans greeted the Australian Baseball Team in Osaka on Tuesday as they squared off in their first of two exhibition games against the reigning World Baseball Classic champions Japan.
While there are some genuine positives the Aussies can take away from the opening match-up - some at times "nervous" defence proved costly in an 8-2 loss to the host nation.
Manager Jon Deeble spoke at length after the game about the need for his troops to improve on the "little things" if they wanted to upset the home side.
"We are constantly striving to improve our fundamentals," Deeble said.
"It's clear that we can't afford to give a team like Japan extra chances...I thought our pitchers were excellent at times and our bats were pretty good; but ultimately that (defence) is what cost us tonight."
The Australian sluggers notched 8 hits against some of the planet's premier pitchers, including 22-year-old phenomenon Yu Darvish who was knocked out of the game early thanks to some tough at bats from the Aussies.
James Linger (QLD), Chris Snelling (NSW) and Tom Brice (SA) all stroked stand-up doubles during the sold-out event - while clean up hitter Justin Huber (VIC) finished the night 1-3, with an RBI and a run scored at the heart of the Aussie line-up.
On the mound, 2009 Claxton Shield pitching champion Tim Cox allowed 4 runs (2 earned) in 3.2 innings of work, but could have easily escaped unscathed had it not been for a couple of physical and mental errors.
Cox's NSW team mate Craig Anderson was the pick of the Australian hurlers, allowing just 1 run in his 3 innings of work while twice claiming the prized scalp of Japanese superstar Ichiro Suzuki.
Anderson's performance against Ichiro, the Major League record holder for most hits in a single season, soon became the focus of Australia's post-game press conference.
"Of course I know what an great hitter Ichiro is; but I am never thinking that when I am on the mound," Anderson said.
"I just approach everybody the same - pitching to my strengths - and tonight I was pretty effective pitching inside to him (Suzuki)."
Game two of the series is scheduled for 8pm AEST on Wednesday and will see Australia's Damian Moss lock horns with Boston Red Sox ace Daisuke Matsuzaka in his first match-up against the Aussies since the upset 1-0 loss in the 2004 Olympic Games.