China humbled by Yomiuri Giants
Late burst overshadows otherwise competitive exhibition
By Stephen Ellsesser / Special to MLB.com
China suffered a confidence-eroding loss on Tuesday at the Tokyo Dome, falling 17-0 to the Yomiuri Giants in a World Baseball Classic exhibition. Not a case of everything gone wrong for China, the rout was more an example of nothing going right, and just at the last minute.
The Giants had the game well in hand going into the ninth inning, but a 10-run final frame, powered by a grand slam from Kenji Yano, slammed the door on Pool A's dark horse.
"The only thing I can say is that we're a lot better than we played tonight," Lefebvre said. "It wasn't that we were tired or because of travel. We just played an ugly game tonight, period."
China's offense was anemic against the Central League squad, producing just four baserunners and mustering only three hits. Star center fielder Sun Lingfeng was 1-for-3 with a single, but he was thrown out at second base trying to stretch that single into a double.
China had runners in scoring position with one out in the second inning, trailing 1-0 at the time, but Chen Zhe and Chen Qi grounded out and struck out, respectively, to stall the momentum.
China's offense was nowhere near on track the rest of the way.
"We didn't do much offensively tonight," Lefebvre said. "We didn't swing the bat well. We didn't make a lot of hard outs. We have to do better than that."
China's bright spot in the loss was the performance of starting pitcher Wang Nan, who pitched his way out of a bases-loaded jam in the first inning and allowing only a run and two hits in three innings of work.
With the bases juiced and one run already in, Wang got Giants first baseman Motohiro Yoshikawa to ground into a fielder's choice to end the first.
"I thought Wang Nan was pretty good," Lefebvre said. "He struggled in the first, but he only gave up [one run]. Really, we were fine until the ninth inning."
Stephen Ellsesser is a reporter for The Japan Times and a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.