Japan hopes Uehara can control USA
Right-hander's command recently helped him harness Mariners
"We're fine," he exclaimed. "We are over the [17-hour] time-zone difference and we're ready to go."
Oh expects a low-scoring game against Team USA, which qualified for Sunday's game with a 17-0 victory over South America. But they are in for a much tougher test in the Japan starting pitcher.
Uehara was the winning pitcher in Japan's Classic-opening victory over China, and it was a typical outing in the sense that he had excellent control. He threw 65 pitches in five innings, and 53 of them were strikes.
That was par for the course. During the regular season in 2005, Uehara walked just 22 batters in 187 1/3 innings, and his career free-pass numbers (165 walks in 1,229 innings) is remarkable.
On the other side, hitters know he's going to be around the plate, and that could be a huge benefit for opposing batters. That wasn't the case, however, in Uehara's start against China, or his five-inning second-round tune-up against the Seattle Mariners in Peoria, Ariz., last Wednesday night.
The right-hander stymied a Mariners lineup that included four projected Opening Day starters. He surrendered one hit and faced the minimum 15 batters, striking out six, including shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt and designated hitter Carl Everett twice each.
Team Japan schedule
|Round 2, Pool 1 Anaheim, Calif.|
|Sunday vs. USA, 4 p.m. ET|
|Tuesday vs. Mexico, 7 p.m. ET|
|Wednesday vs. Korea, 7:30 p.m. ET|
|Full schedule >|
Uehara retired seven straight hitters until Greg Dobbs lined a single to right field with one out in the third inning. But Uehara erased that threat by getting Oswaldo Navarro to hit into a routine 6-4-3 double play. Uehara then put down the next six hitters in order -- three via strikeout.
"I have no complaints about Uehara's pitching," Oh said. "I would say it's up there as one of his best performances that I've seen."
Not that it was a reward for a job well done, but Oh didn't hesitate to name Uehara as his starter in Sunday's game against Team USA -- before he even knew who Japan would be playing.
Familiar surroundings: Ichiro went 3-for-13 during the first round of games in Tokyo, but he has returned to a place -- Angel Stadium -- that has been good to him.
He is a .352 (70-for-199) hitter with one home run and 10 RBIs at the stadium during his five-year MLB career.
But the way he was rocketing batting practice pitches into the right-field seats on Saturday, he might be in the mood to go long against Team USA in Sunday's game. He stood outside the batting practice cage talking to Oh about hitting -- apparently long-ball hitting.
Ichiro stepped into the cage and proceeded to hit three consecutive pitches into the right-field seats.
Oh turned around and smiled.
Asked what he was telling Ichiro, Oh, the all-time home run king in all of baseball, shook his head.
"No, he was teaching me," Oh said. "He was showing me how he used his entire body. You can't use just the upper half, you must use your whole body."